So, You Need Wind to Sail?

By: Learn To Sail

A sailor’s world revolves around the wind and staying aware of the wind’s direction is crucial. When you are just beginning to sail-you may feel so inundated with all of the new information that it’s easy to lose track of the wind direction. If that happens, just relax, take a deep breath and feel the wind on your face and skin. Your ability to accurately sense changes in the wind, its speed and its direction will improve as you learn. This is an important transition that will occur as you become a sailor.

Points of Sail

Points of Sail Diagram
Learning the points of sail, and how the sails look and the boat feels on each one, is fundamental to becoming a competent sailor.

No sailboat can sail directly into the wind;  it is physically impossible because the sail will not “fill.” By harnessing the forces created by air and water flow, a sailboat can sail remarkably “close” to the wind. 

These are the points of sail and your understanding of them will help in your ability to propel the boat in the direction that you choose. They are an important concept for all sailors to understand and the points of sail dictate the direction any boat can sail relative to the wind direction. 

In Irons (into the wind) AKA No Sail Zone – The sector bisected by the wind direction where a sailboat cannot sail. It is about 90 degrees wide.

Close-Hauled – Sailing upwind as close to the wind as possible, also called beating. This point of sail is very narrow, just a few degrees.

DCIM100GOPRO

Close Reach – Sailing at an angle closer than 90 degrees to the wind (but not quite up to close-hauled).

Beam Reach – Sailing at 90 degrees to the wind direction.

Broad Reach – Sailing at any angle between reaching and running.

Running – Sailing “downwind” directly away from the wind.

Time to Practice the Points of Sail?

ASA's Sailing Challenge - Harbor Tour
ASA’s Sailing Challenge – Harbor Tour

Take a look at the Sailing Challenge App. The Points of Sail module will help you master your knowledge of the subject. The Sailing Challenge app is a cutting-edge gaming app designed as a fun learning aid to help illustrate the principles of sailing in a rich interactive and entertaining format. Available on Windows | Mac | iPads | iPhones.


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Philip Ken Freeman
Philip Ken Freeman
1 month ago

Does anyone use mil. surp. parachute way above the bow , for downwind/ trade wind sailing. It looks to me like the wind would be more stable higher. Plus a $ 200 parachute is lots cheaper than a $ 2000 sail.