The task of becoming sea-worthy

Points Of Sail

The points of sail, sometimes called sailing positions, relate to the angle between a sailboat’s heading, or course, and the direction of the wind. There are three major points of sail:

close haul or beating (wind is from ahead) – there are 2 close haul positions: close haul port tack and close haul starboard tack.

reaching (wind is from the side) – there are six reaching positions: close reach port tack & close reach starboard tack.   beam reach port tack and beam reach starboard tack.   broad reach port tack and broad reach starboard tack.

running (wind is from astern) – there are 3 running positions.  running, port tack running and starboard tack running.

.

Close Haul, Reaching and Running.  Each one is different and serves a different purpose.  The following is a description on what you’ll experience with each.

Close Haul – Wind will be coming from the forward direction.  At close haul, you sail within a 45 degree angle to the wind.  Getting to an upwind direction requires attention to sail trim and boat heel, along with careful observation of your course.

Reaching – The wind is coming over the side, perpendicular to the center-line of the boat.  When reaching, the most important object is sail trim and holding your course.  Ease out the sail until it begins to luff, then trim in until the sail holds its shape.

Running – The boat is running when the wind is coming from behind, across the stern of the boat.  The centerboard, while the boat sails upright, moves without much resistance through the water.  (centerboard – adjustable blade in the center of the boat that allows the boat to move forward instead of being pushed sideways by the wind) Without the stablizing force of the water on the centerboard, the boat is less stable.

As the diagram shows, reading clockwise, there are 12 positions in all:

1.  In irons – into the wind

2.  close haul – port tack

3.  close reach – port tack

4.  Beam reach – port tack

5.  Broad reach – port tack

6.  Running – port tack

7.  Running – wind from behind

8.  Running – starboard tack

9.  Broad reach – starboard tack

10. Beam reach – starboard tack

11. Close reach – starboard tack

12. Close haul – starboard tack

There is a difference 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. This puts the boom on starboard side.  Likewise if the wind is coming from the starboard side, the boat is on starboard tack. The boom will be on port side.

Except when headed directly into wind, a boat will be on either port or starboard tack while on any point of sail. For purposes of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea and the Racing Rules of Sailing, the wind is assumed to be coming from the side opposite that which the boom is carried.  The boom is the pole that runs horizontal off the mast.

list runs clockwise

1.  In irons – into the wind: At this point of sail, the boat is heading directly into the wind.  It’s the 12 o’clock position.  Since a boat cannot sail directly into the wind, the sails will be luffing (“flapping”) in the breeze and making noise, like a flag. When ‘in irons’, the boat stops forward motion when headed into the wind.

Tactic: 1.  the jib or forwardmost sail can be backed (tightened and pushed out) on the side that is the desired tack until the boat is at a sufficient angle to the wind for sailing, 2.  the rudder can be turned to the side that is the desired tack (the tiller pointed in the desired direction that you wish to go) and held until the boat is at the correct angle to the wind and resumes forward motion.

in irons

.

2.  close haul – port tack:  When the wind is coming over the port side (boom now on starboard), we are on port tack. This is defined as the closest to the wind we can efficiently sail and is usually a relative bearing of 1 o’clock.  A boat is sailing close hauled when its sails are trimmed in tightly and it is sailing as close to the wind as it can without entering in irons.   This point of sail lets the boat travel diagonally upwind. This is a precise point of sail. However, the exact angle relative to the wind direction varies from boat to boat. A boat is considered to be “pinching” if the helmsman tries to sail above an efficient close-hauled course and the sails begin to luff slightly.

Tactic:  On this point of sail the sails are brought in as close or tight to the centerline of the boat as possible.  Rudder should be held at the center as long as the sails do not luff.  If the sails do luff,  (a flapping motion along the luff (leading edge) of a sail. A sail begins to luff when the air flow stalls when traveling across the sail.)  Here, make small changes to the course to fill the sails since the sails are already trimmed in all the way.

closed haul - port tack

3.  close reach – port tack:  With wind coming over the port side (boom on starboard), port tacking.  The point of sail at which the boat is sailing toward the wind but not close-hauled.  The 2 o’clock position. Close reach is the upwind angle between Close Hauled and a Beam Reach. “Fetch” (or “fetching”) is a synonym in many English-speaking countries for a close reach.  This is a fast point of sail for most boats.

Tactic:  When sailing a straight line, let sail out just slightly for maximum speed.  Sail trim is critical for boat speed. Telltales on the sails will tell you how to trim.  The basic idea is to let the sails out until they luff (flap) then bring them in just to the point on no longer luffing so the sail holds its shape.

close reach - port tack

.

4.  Beam reach – port tack:  Sailing so that the wind is on the beam. 90 degrees angle on port, or the 3 o’clock position.  Again, with wind coming over the port side, (boom on starboard).

Tactic:  When sailing a straight line, position sail at just under a 45° angle to the boat for maximum speed.  Here the sails are let half way out and the centerboard is set to half way down. This is generally the most efficient point of sail and can provide for the fastest speeds, allowing some boats to reach speeds exceeding the wind speed.

beam reach - port tack

.

5.  Broad reach – port tack: Again, this position is on the port side, wind coming over the port side. Here the wind is at a relative bearing of about the  4 o’clock position.  The boat is sailing at about 100º to 140º from the wind. The sails are approximately three-quarters of the way out.  On the port side, this is the first downwind sailing position.    The wind is coming from behind the boat at an angle.   This represents a range of wind angles between beam reach and running downwind.

Tactic:  When sailing a straight line, position sail at about a 45° angle to the boat for maximum speed.  Sails may be adjusted,  but sail trim is not critical.  Just as in running we probably won’t be able to let the mainsail out beyond just where it starts to touch the rigging.The sails are eased out away from the boat, but not as much as on a run or dead run (downwind run).

broad reach - port tack

.

6.  Running – port tack: Running port side, sailing downwind.  The second downward sailing on the port side, the 5 o’clock position.  Sails will be let out to their maximum position with the rudder in center position.

Tactic:  When sailing a straight line on the port side, let sail out nearly perpendicular to the boat for maximum speed.  To jibe—turn with the wind at your back—carefully pull in sail and gently turn rudder, then slowly let sail out on opposite side.  Watch for the boom to unexpectedly swing across the boat with a sudden change in wind direction.

running - port tack

.

7.  Running – wind from behind: A run is straight downwind. Neither port or staarboard.  The wind is at a relative bearing of 6 o’clock. We want to expose as much sail area as possible.  Sail trim is not critical, small adjustments don’t make much difference in our boat speed.  The sails should be out all of the way. You might have noticed in the picture that the mainsail and the jib are on opposite sides while on a run.  Running is the most unstable position to sail in.

Tactic:  When sailing a straight line, let sail out nearly perpendicular to the boat for maximum speed.  To jibe—turn with the wind at your back—carefully pull in sail and gently turn rudder, then slowly let sail out on opposite side.  Watch for the boom to unexpectedly swing across the boat with a sudden change in wind direction.

running

.

8.  Running – starboard tack: Running starboard side, sailing downwind.  With the wind coming over the starboard side, (boom on port). The second downward sailing on the starboard side, the 7 o’clock position.  Sails will be let out to their maximum position with the rudder in center position.

Tactic:  When sailing a straight line on the starboard side, let sail out nearly perpendicular to the boat for maximum speed.  To jibe—turn with the wind at your back—carefully pull in sail and gently turn rudder, then slowly let sail out on opposite side.  Watch for the boom to unexpectedly swing across the boat with a sudden change in wind direction.

running - starboard tack

.

9.  Broad reach – starboard tack: Again, this position is on the starboard side.  With the wind coming over the starboard side, (boom on port).  Here the wind is at a relative bearing of about the 8 o’clock position.  The boat is sailing at about 100º to 140º from the wind. The sails are approximately three-quarters of the way out.  On the starboard side, this is the first downwind sailing position.   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, but not as much as on a run or dead run (downwind run)

Tactic:  When sailing a straight line, position sail at about a 45° angle to the boat for maximum speed.  We may adjust the sails but sail trim is not critical. Just as in running we probably won’t be able to let the mainsail out beyond just where it starts to touch the rigging.  .

broad reach - starboard tack

.

10.  Beam reach – starboard tack:  Sailing so that the wind is on the beam. 90 degrees angle on starboard, or the 9 o’clock position.  Again, with wind coming over the starboard side, (boom on port). This is generally the most efficient point of sail and can provide for the fastest speeds, allowing some boats to reach speeds exceeding the wind speed.

Tactic:  When sailing a straight line, position sail at just under a 45° angle to the boat for maximum speed.  Here the sails are let half way out and the centerboard is set to half way down.

beam reach - starboard tack

.

11.  close reach – starboard tack:  With wind coming over the starboard side (boom on port), starboard tacking.  The point of sail at which the boat is sailing toward the wind but not close-hauled.  The 10 o’clock position. Close reach is the upwind angle between Close Hauled and a Beam Reach. “Fetch” (or “fetching”) is a synonym in many English-speaking countries for a close reach.  This is a fast point of sail for most boats.

Tactic:  When sailing a straight line, let sail out just slightly for maximum speed.  Sail trim is critical for boat speed. Telltales on the sails will tell you how to trim. The basic idea is to let the sails out until they luff (flap) then bring them in just to the point on no longer luffing and holds its shape.

close reach - starboard tack

.

12.  close haul – starboard tack:  When the wind is coming over the starboard side (boom now on port), we are on starboard tack. This is defined as the closest to the wind we can efficiently sail and is usually a relative bearing of 11 o’clock. On this point of sail the sails are brought in as close or tight to the centerline of the boat as possible. A boat is sailing close hauled when its sails are trimmed in tightly and it is sailing as close to the wind as it can without entering in irons.  This point of sail lets the boat travel diagonally upwind. This is a precise point of sail. However, the exact angle relative to the wind direction varies from boat to boat. A boat is considered to be “pinching” if the helmsman tries to sail above an efficient close-hauled course and the sails begin to luff slightly.

Tactic:  When sailing a straight line, keep sail almost entirely hauled in for maximum speed.  Rudder should be held at the center as long as the sails do not luff.   If they do, make small changes to the course to fill the sails since the sails are already trimmed in all the way.

close haul - starboard tack

.

Points to remember:

In Irons – 12 o’clock

Close Hauled – 11 o’clock or 1 o’clock

Close Reach – 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock

Beam Reach – 9 o’clock or 3 o’clock

Broad Reach – 8 o’clock or 4 o’clock

Running – 7 o’clock, 6 o’clock or 5 o’clock

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.