Points of sail

From Academic Kids

Points of sail is the term used to describe a sailing boat's course in relation to the wind direction.

First, there is a distinction between the port tack and the starboard tack. If the wind is coming from anywhere on the port side, the boat is on port tack. Likewise if the wind is coming from the starboard side, the boat is on starboard tack. With the exception of Head To Wind, a boat will be on either port or starboard tack while on any point of sail.

The points of sail are as follows:

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points of sail


Head To Wind

(also known as In Irons) At this point of sail the boat is headed directly into the wind. A boat turns through this point of sail as it performs a tack. The boat is on neither port nor starboard tack. The boat cannot sail directly into the wind: it is therefore not under control and will probably start drifting backwards.To escape, the jib (headsail) is 'backed', i.e. hauled to one side of the boat, and the tiller is moved to the same side. This results in the boat sailing backwards out of the no-go zone. Sailing boats are usually put head to wind when raising or lowering sails. Note that in this case motorised sailing boats will often be under power (ie the engine will be running).

No Go Zone

The boat is pointed too close to the wind for the sails to generate any power (unless they are 'backed', see above). The sails will be flapping (luffing) in the breeze and making noise, like a flag.

Close Hauled

This is course steered towards the wind. This is the closest to the wind that a boat can sail without entering the No Go Zone. The sails are trimmed in as tightly as possible. This point of sail lets the boat travel diagonally upwind. This is a precise point of sail.

Close Reach

This is any upwind angle between Close Hauled and a Beam Reach.

Beam Reach

This is a course steered at right angles to the wind. This is a precise point of sail.

Broad Reach

The wind is coming from behind the boat at an angle. This represents a range of wind angles between Beam Reach and Running Downwind. The sails are eased out away from the boat as much as possible.

Running Downwind

Sometimes called the "Don't go Zone" because it is the most difficult to steer and trim, and because although the sails will propel the boat in this direction many boats will complete a leg in this direction more rapidly by tacking downwind, that is running closer to the wind and gybing where necessary to stay close to the desired course, thus avoiding this zone. On this course the wind is coming from directly behind the boat. This is a precise point of sail. On a sloop-rigged boat, this is a dangerous point of sail, as the boat can jibe accidentally if the lee-side of the sail catches the wind. A preventer or fore-guy may be used to prevent this. The boat is nevertheless least stable at this point of sail. The mainsail is eased out as far as it will go. The jib will collapse because the mainsail blocks its wind, and must either be lowered and replaced by a spinnaker or set instead on the windward side of the boat, a procedure known as gull wing or goose wing. A genoa jib gull-wings well, especially if stabilised by a pole similar or identical to that used with a spinnaker. In non-extras races where spinnakers are not permitted, poled-out genoas are often used when running downwind. They are also used by cruising yachtsmen as they require less trimming effort than a spinnaker. Template:Sailing manoeuvres Template:Sail Types


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