Parts of a sail

features that define a (ship) sail's shape and function
Parts of a sail: 1) Clew; 2) Head; 3) Tack

In sailing the parts of a sail have certain terms that clearly describe them.[1]

Parts of the mainsailEdit

  • The head is the very top of the sail.[1]
  • The tack (noun) is the name for the lower corner of the sail closest to the mast.[1] Not to be confused with a tack which describes which side of a sailboat the wind is coming from while under way—port or starboard.[2]
  • The foot is the bottom edge of the sail from the tack to the clew. The foot of a sail attaches to the boom.[3]
  • The luff is the forward or leading edge of a sail.[3]
  • The leech is the back edge of the sail.[3]
  • The clew is the bottom back corner of the sail (furthest from the mast).[1]

Parts of a headsailEdit

The headsail of a sailboat is any sail set forward of the mast (on a single masted boat) or foremast (the mast nearest the bow).[4] The corresponding parts are the same relative to the front of the boat. (Note: The headsail tack is the name for the lower corner of the headsail -- the sail closest to the front of the boat.)

Associated partsEdit

  • The boom is a horizontal spar (pole) that runs along the foot of a fore-and-aft rigged sail.[5]
  • The jib is the next most common sail on a sailboat. It is always forward of the mainmast.
  • A sheet is a rope used to control a sail.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Sailing Quick Reference Guide" (PDF). Wayzata Yacht Club. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  2. "Sailing Terms Everyone Should Know". American Sailing Association. November 27, 2012. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Denny Desoutter, The Adlard Coles Book of Boatwords (London : Adlard Coles Nautical, 2010), p. 187
  4. John Keegan, The Price of Admiralty (New York: Viking press, 1989), pp. 278–279
  5. Mike MacKenzie (2005–2012). "Boom". Sea Talk Nautical Dictionary: The Dictionary of English Nautical Language. Retrieved December 28, 2016.