Illustrated Sail and Rig Tuning is a little book which takes on a big job. Since it’s 9 1/2 by 6 3/4 inches and 80 pages, we had to wonder. The book is intentionally small and of high quality paper so it can live in cockpits where it belongs. It is succinct and heavily illustrated and does indeed deliver as the title claims.

Author Ivar Dedekam does not mince words. He offers very understandable instructions on how to tune your rig and trim your sails. The physics and fluid dynamics (never called by those names) are all kept light and are done with few words and many illustrations. This part is completed by Page 5. Some beginners may understand it, but experienced sailors will not be bored with this part. Pages 6 and 7 go through the beat reach run illustrations and will be useful for instructing true beginners who are aboard. This is not however, a book for beginners. After Page 7, they will need something else.

Page 8 starts sail shape, twist, flow gradients and all the good stuff that puts the last three quarters of a knot in your boat speed. Unless you have already won the class nationals in your early teens, there is likely to be something in this book for you. If you are convinced that cruising sailors don’t need to know how to trim their sails, Ivar is not. He offers the fine detail that a good crew will use to fight for inches in a three-hour dual and then explains what the cruising sailor will want from that.

By Pages 17 and 18 Ivar is putting together how to control jib shape using both the halyard tension and the forestay tension. He relates the desired shape to wind speed and sea conditions and offers the reader an understandable explanation of how these four variables work together. This is where you widen the groove so you can steer through the chop and in the dark. I’ve seen this misunderstood in major publications and then wrong again when they tried to correct themselves. This little book gets it right in just two pages and lets you understand it. The trick is that you must consider all four variables at once.

By Page 60, sail trim is done. It’s all in there in 60 pages including extensive instructions on flying downwind sails. The way to use the first part of the book is to read it carefully and then use it as reference when sailing. Keep it in the cockpit in a zip-type plastic bag.

The second part of the book describes tuning standing rigging. Again, the text is brief. The illustrations show which wires to loosen or tighten to get your stick straight and tuned. The tuning is described as two step-by-step processes, one at the dock, and one under way.

This book is a translation from Norwegian to English. Nothing is really lost in the translation process, but the North American English-speaking reader will find that the version of English is more akin to that spoken in the mother country than in North America. There are some differences in terms, like kicking strap (vang), and rigging screw (turnbuckle), and some of the metric dimensions may not be immediately familiar. As with many translations, a strict grammarian might cringe or get a chuckle, but none of that detracts from the intended mission of the book which is to instruct and be a handy reference for tuning sails and rigging. There is nothing else like this book that we know of.

This book was impressive enough for us to start thinking about having a Good Old Boat Bookshelf, offering a few special books for sale. Ivar offered us (and several other outlets) the opportunity to sell his book, and we accepted. As time goes on, you will find ads for this book and others we favor in our pages. If you’d like to purchase a copy, send a check for $24 (this includes $2 for postage and handling) for each copy ordered to Good Old Boat. Be sure you give us a full mailing address with your request.

Illustrated Sail and Rig Tuning by Ivar Dedekam (Dedekam Design, 1999)