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sailing - page 6

2.6 Points Of Sail

Please immerse yourself in this illustration. You might find an objecy or a model boat to serve as a visual aid, and turn it through an imaginary wind steady from a single direction. Then perhaps go at it from the opposite perspective-keep the boat's heading stationary and let the wind shift around it. Then take it a step farther by trying to picture where the wind will be if you turn, say, 90 degrees in one direction or another from your present heading. It might even be helpful to set up a portable fan to supply wind, instead of merely imagining it. Whatever your style of learning, focus it at this early stage on understanding points of sail. If the angle changes, either because you turn the boat or because the wind shifts,then you will need to adjust the sail trim accordingly. But for now, the important step is to grasp the general concept of relative wind angles as illustrated in "points of sail". 

  • In Irons - 0 degrees 

  • Close hauled - 45 degrees

  • Close Reach - 60 degrees

  • Beam Reach - 90 degrees

  • Broad Reach - 120 degrees

  • Running - 150-180 degrees 

In iron

A sailing craft is said to be "in irons" if it is stopped with its sails unable to generate power in the no-go zone. If the craft tacks too slowly, or otherwise loses forward motion while heading into the wind, the craft will coast to a stop. This is also known as being "taken aback," especially on a square-rigged vessel whose sails can be blown back against the masts, while tacking.

Close hauled

A sailing craft is said to be sailing close-hauled (also called beating or working to windward) when its sails are trimmed in tightly (close to the centerline), are acting substantially like a wing, and the craft's course is as close to the wind as allows the sail(s) to generate maximum lift. This point of sail lets the sailing craft travel diagonally to the wind direction, or "upwind". Sailing to windward close-hauled and tacking is called "beating". On the last tack it is possible to "fetch" to the windward or weather mark. A fetch is sailing close hauled upwind to a mark without needing to tack.

The smaller the angle between the direction of the true wind and the course of the sailing craft, the higher the craft is said to point. A craft that can point higher (when it is as close-hauled as possible) is said to be more weatherly.

instr. close hauled.png

Close reach

A "close reach" is a course closer to the true wind than a beam reach but below close-hauled; i.e., any angle between a beam reach and close-hauled. The sails are trimmed in, but not as tight as for a close-hauled course.

close hauled.jpg
instr. close reach.png

Beam reach

This is the fastest and easiest point of sail. The wind is on the side of your boat (beam) and you’ll sail with your sails out half way.  

instr. beam reach.png

Broad reach

On a broad reach you’ll be heading a bit further downwind, so you will have to let your sails out a bit more.

instr. broad reach.png

Running - Downwind

With the wind directly behind you this is the trickiest point of sail to steer as it can be quite unstable. On a run your sails can be let out on opposite side of the boat to catch the wind (sailing goosewinged) or a big sail called a spinnaker can be set.  

instr. running downwind.png

Luffing sails

If the sails are not trimmed in the correct angle according to the wind direction, they will start to flap. In that case it is time to sheet them in. For instance, a luffing headsail tells you that is time to sheet it in. 

Starboard tack

The tack on which the wind comes from a sailing ship's starboard side.


Port tack

The tack on which the wind comes from a sailing ship's port side.

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