'The sea attracted his attention as a backdrop for human activities and as an excuse for painting lively spectacles bathed in light... He returned to this theme over and over again, expanding and transforming it. The variations arise in the structure of the paintings and the choice and arrangement of colours. A master of his technique, he made use of an increasingly free and dynamic composition, with vibrant colours exploding in a fanfare to announce the start of the race. His lines sacrifice detail in order to convey a general impression' (D. Perez-Tibi, Dufy, London, 1989, p. 158).
Dufy's lifelong preoccupation with colour found its perfect outlet in the theme of the regatta with all its bustling activity and bright colour, and the artist treated the subject in varied locations such as Le Havre and Deauville and, in England, Henley and Cowes. Dufy took great care in observing the luminosity and transiency of the effects of sunlight upon water and used this to further his theory of couleur-lumière, a theory he applied with great effect to his marine compositions. Les voiles au sec employs a dynamic composition based on the vertical sails in the foreground, but Dufy also uses the landscape between the uprights, as well as the angles of the boats, to create a sense of recession and depth.