If you're not an experienced sailor with a clear vision of the sail wardrobe you want to work with, the type of rig that will work best for your budget, and the best layout for the control systems; then this article points out some of the advantages and disadvantages of the various options and it presents a structured process for selecting the equipment and planning a deck layout to make it all work seamlessly.
While the rig, sails and control systems can each be considered in a category of their own and manufactured or supplied by a specialist working in just that category, the integration of the three elements and clear communication is critical to a successful meeting of the technologies.
This can only be achieved with planning and management that must be carried out by the owner, a builder working on your behalf, or a specialist who understands importance of ensuring that design, manufacturing, and equipment selection needs to be carefully integrated and coordinated.
Whether your'e setting up a new boat or reinvigorating an older one it's important to visualise the rig, sails and deck hardware as three interactive systems with the features of each having implications for the design and specification of the other two.
In past decades you might have been provided with a sail plan, rig plan and deck layout by the designer, and by simply following the drawings and specifications you could expect to have a fully functional sailing boat with no need for a lot of head scratching in the process.
More recently we've seen rapid development in the technologies of deck hardware, rigs and sails, including structured luffs, top down furling systems, the adoption of halyard locks and a broad range of options available in each of these technologies. If you're out there racing every weekend or if you are a highly experienced cruising skipper then you are probably familiar with the advantages and the possible pitfalls of all of most of these technologies. On the other hand if it's your first boat then the array of decisions that have to be made can be daunting.
There is process for putting it all together. Start with the sails, then the rig and finally the control systems, but don't expect to finalise any one of these categories until you've made decisions in all three areas and then refined them all by talking to the experts you're going to be working with and going back over the details to make sure all of the technologies are going to work in harmony.