Best Books on Sail Trim

There are many cruising sailors out on the water every weekend whose grasp of sail trim is rudimentary at best. Of course, this doesn’t make them bad people - after all, their ability to mix a mean G&T may well make up for any lack of aerodynamic understanding, but like wearing socks with sandals - it’s just a bit embarrassing.

The problem for most is that unless you started in dinghies (or you race regularly) there is little in the way of structured learning for cruising sailors. There is so much to pack into a 5 day course syllabus that the art and science of trimming sails gets only scant attention. The ability to sail efficiently is a requirement, but this falls short of great sail trim.

In large part sail trim is one of those things that it’s assumed you will learn given time. But where to start?

Here we list five great books for those of you keen to improve your sail trim and how to be first back to the marina every time.

Sail & Rig Tuning by Ivar Dedekam

This book is excellent for the novice racer. Especially anyone looking to sail and race with symmetrical spinnakers. The book is paperback and not too substantial. It is well illustrated and doesn’t over complicate. A great introduction for the novice racer. As the name suggests, the author also touches on rig tuning.
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Mainsail Trimming by Felix Marks

A real gem of a book that will walk you through the way we create different shapes in the mainsail and why. It covers all the basics before moving on to consider how to create acceleration, better speed and also depower a mainsail without the need to reef.  Even with many thousands of miles under my belt, I still found much in this book to improve my sail trim.
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Jib Trimming by Felix Marks

A great accompaniment to the previous book, the title says it all. Many boats rely on their headsail to provide the power and speed necessary for a swift passage and a comfortable ride. It should, therefore, be no surprise that being able to efficiently trim a jib for best speed is a useful skill. I’d recommend this buy in conjunction with the author’s book on Mainsail Trim.
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RYA Sail Trim Handbook for Cruisers by Rob Gibson

A concise and easy to read paperback that talks the cruising sailor through the sail trim process and techniques. A useful accompaniment to other books in the RYA stable such as the RYA Day Skipper and Competent Crew Practical Books that address the RYA Course syllabi.
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Asymmetric Sailing by Andy Rice

Another excellent accompaniment to the books by Felix Marks on Jib and mainsail trim. With many boats now using asymmetric spinnakers as a matter of course, a book that concentrates on this sail type should form a useful part of your learning process. The only caveat I’d make is that the book concentrates on Cats and dinghies and doesn’t specifically cover larger yachts.
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