Tips For Tacking A Sailboat

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 12,778
    Kevin Wensley, Director of Operations of the Offshore Sailing School, provides the top tips for tacking a sailboat.

    Kevin Wensley: Hello! My name is Kevin Wensley. I am Director of Operations here at Offshore Sailing School. And today I am at South Seas Island Resorts on the beautiful Island of Captiva in Florida.

    And what I want to do today is talk a little bit about tacking a sailboat. Now, tacking a sailboat is where we go with the wind coming over one side of the boat and the sails fill nicely and then we turn the bow of the boat through the wind until the sails catch the wind on the other side. The first consideration is, how big a turn am I going to make? So, as the driver, you are thinking, well, I can sail well at 45 degrees on one side of the wind and I need to turn to 45 degrees to the other side of the wind, so my turn is going to be through about 90 degrees.

    So step one is to have a look over your shoulder and see if you can't see a building or a tree or a bright spot on the ocean at 90 degrees to you current course and that will tell you where you are going to turn the boat to. You can also use your compass to work out what 90 degree turns are looking like. Having decided where you are going to turn the boat to, you then go to let the crew know that this is about to happen. So traditionally the command of preparation for tacking is --Female Speaker: Ready about!

    Kevin Wensley: Ready about and then the jib trimmer needs to think about what their role is. For the jib trimmer, they are thinking when is the right time for me to completely release one of the sheets, and when is the right time to be pulling in on the other sheet to get the sail working on the new side of the boat. So, what the jib trimmer does, as the boat is turning into the wind, he or she looks to see if there is any luffing in the sail, is the sail shaking. As the sail starts to shake it's as complete release on what was working sheet and then you pull real tight on what was the lazy sheet and turn the jib nice and tight to get sailing upwind on the new tack. So, for the main sail trimmer, they have got a fairly straightforward job, because the boom doesn't really move far at all on a tack. So all they have to worry about is getting across the boat and transitioning without making any contact with the boom. For the driver, they are making a nice slow turn, not a fast turn, and as they are turning the boat, the boat comes up right, they will deck the head underneath the boom, pass the tiller behind their back and then reposition themselves to setup for sailing upwind on the new tack. And that's the basics of tacking a sail boat.