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December 12 , 2007

The Working Guide to Traditional Small-Boat Sails

A How-To Handbooks for Owners and Builders


Make your modern sailboat look (and work) like a salty classic.

The Golden Age of Sail is long past, sadly, and much of its lore is nearly extinct. Sailboats now almost uniformly use the Bermudan sloop rig—a triangular jib and a triangular mainsail. But that rig evolved mainly to meet esoteric yacht-racing measurement rules. It is not necessarily the most efficient or effective rig. This book lets sailors rediscover the practical advantages—and the aesthetic delights—of such configurations as the sprit sail, the gaff sail, the lug sail, and the gunter rig. It also includes valuable information on marlinspike work like rope-whipping and eye-splicing; and tips on converting your modern sailboat to a traditional rig.

David L. Nichols has been building boats and making sails for approximately fifteen years. When he isn’t designing sails or building boats you’ll find him in the boats he’s designed and built. He feels that the only way to truly understand boats and sails is to use them. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, he has written for boating magazines like WoodenBoat and Boatbuilder, as well as writing and producing boat building videos. His designs may be viewed at

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Some reviews:

“This will become the classic book on traditional rigs for small boats. . . . A concise and thorough compendium on using low-cost and efficient traditional rigs, the kind that not only look better but work better on small boats than their modern counterparts.”

   —Gary Blankenship, Duckworks Magazine


“The ‘traditional’ rigs here are the kind you’ll find on the clinker plywood designs of Iain Oughtred and the like; rigs with polyester sails and running rigging. Tufnol blocks and stainless steel shackles. ‘Modern traditional boats’, if you’ll forgive the phrase. Similarly, there’s a nice mix of old and new the manner the material is presented: old in the cleanliness of the page design; new in the extensive use of colour close-up photographs to illustrate details of the rigs. Highly recommended.” 

   —Water Craft Magazine


"Mr. Nichols does an excellent job of explaining the fundamentals in terms that are useful to old salts looking to tweak their rigs, builders trying to figure out what's next, and admirers of traditional design."

   —Good Old Boat


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