Sailing Manual

by Paul Kylander

Part III : Practical Aspects of Sailing

Topics covered in Part III:

Prepare a Sailor to Leave for a Day of Sailing
Rigging a Flying Junior
Leaving a Dock
Points of Sail
Trimming the Sails
Man Overboard
Arriving at a Dock

Before stepping into a sailboat and going for a sail there are some important things to know. Part III of this manual will prepare a sailor for a sail, and then take the sailor for a typical day of sailing. A typical day of sailing involves: rigging the boat, leaving a dock, sailing on different points of sail, trimming the sails, tacking, gybing, man overboard, capsizing and finally landing at a dock.

Preparing to leave

Before learning how to rig a Flying Junior there are some preliminary things to know.

Stepping into a sailboat can be tricky. Dinghies are generally very prone to capsizing. Because of this it is important to do several things first. When getting into a Flying Junior make sure that both hands are free. When stepping into the boat, step as much into the center as possible. The center board should be lowered all the way, it can be left in this position for the day. The skipper should get in first, then as the crew steps in, the skipper will balance the boat appropriately. Never step on the edge of the boat, or jump into the boat.

The position of the skipper (the individual who will steer the boat) and the crew (the individual who does not steer) are vital to sail safely. As shown in figure 18, the skipper should always be seated opposite the boom and it is the crews responsibility to balance the boat so that the hull is flat in the water. This is done to maximize the efficiency with which the boat moves through the water.

The final aspect to discuss is how to steer a sailboat. It is the skipper who will control the direction of the boat by either pulling or pushing the tiller. Figure 19 outlines the way in which the skipper would use the tiller to turn either left or right.

Rigging a Flying Junior

The steps outlined in the following section assume that the mast is already fixed to the hull of the sailboat. To rig the flying junior follow the steps provided below:

Position the bow so that it points directly into the wind.
Fasten the jib halyard to the jib.
Fasten the jib tack to the bow plate.
Fasten the jib sheet to the jib clew (use the bowline to do this).
Feed the jib sheet through the fairleads and tie figure eight knots to secure the ends.
Fasten the mainsail to the boom.
Insert the battens into the batten pockets.
Connect the boom to the gooseneck.
Rig the mainsheet through the blocks.
Fasten the main halyard to the head of the mainsail.
Feed the mainsail through the mast slot.
Hoist the jib and the mainsail, fasten both halyards.
Once the boat is in the water, lower the center board and put in the rudder.
Tie the boat to the dock using either the bowline or the clove hitch.
Ensure that there is a bailer in the boat.
Coil excess ropes and organize the boat cockpit.
Leaving the dock

Figure 20 shows how to leave from a dock. It is a good idea to do several things before leaving any environment.

Plan a route before leaving the dock.
Find out the hazards and dangers around your departure area.
Plan alternate routes if something were to happen on the original route.

Once the crew and skipper are settled in the boat, the crew is responsible for untying the painter from the dock (figure 20, boat 3). As the boat drifts backwards, the skipper must move the bow out of irons. Irons is when the bow of the boat faces directly into the wind. Figure 21 shows how a sailboat will get out of irons. The skipper will push the tiller as the boat drifts backwards. This causes the stern of the boat to move left, and it brings the bow out of irons.

Once the bow is out of irons (figure 20, boat 3A), the sails can be sheeted in. The wind will fill the sails (figure 20, boat 3B), and the boat will start to move forward (figure 20, boat 3C). Not all departures will be as simple or straight forward as this one, but the basic techniques are the same.

Points of sail

Points of sail refer to the position of the boat in relation to the wind. The points of sail are outlined in figure 22. There are five major points of sail: close hauled, close reach, beam reach, broad reach and run. A brief description of each point of sail will be provided.

Irons: The boat is in irons when the bow points directly into the wind. The boat is at 0 to the wind at this point. The angle of all other points of sail are defined by the direction of irons (at 0 to the wind). The sail does not catch any wind at this point of sail.

Close Hauled: Close Hauled is as close to the wind as a sailboat can sail. A boat is considered to be sailing close hauled when the bow is 45 from the wind. The sails of the boat should be sheeted all the way in. The term beating refers to sailing up wind by tacking (this term will be discussed later), from one close hauled position to another. Figure 23 shows a boat beating upwind.

Close Reach: This is the point of sail between the beam reach and close hauled. The close reach is at approximately 68 from the wind. The sails should be let out about one quarter of the way.

Beam Reach: The beam reach is at 90 from the wind. The sails at this point of sail should be half way out.

Broad Reach: The sails at this position should be three quarters of the way out. The broad reach is at 68 from the wind. This is the fastest point of sail for a sailboat. The final point of sail is the run.

Run: A run is when the wind is blowing from behind the boat. A boat is considered to be on a run when it is roughly 155 to 180 from the wind. At this point of sail, the sails should be positioned parallel to the wind. This is show on figure 23 above.

As seen before, a sail catches wind to power a boat forward. At the same time, the wind puts a force on the sail which causes it to heel. Heeling is when a boat leans to one side. This is illustrated in figure 24a. It is important that the skipper and the crew balance the boat, so as to keep it flat. This may require the use of the hiking straps (see figure 10). Keeping the boat flat is an important measure to prevent capsizing, (capsizing will be discussed later).

Understanding points of sail is important, but it is evident from figure 23 that there are directions which are not defined by the wind clock. To deal with this, sailors must learn the concept of sail trim, which is the proper positioning of the sail in relation to the wind.

Trimming the Sails

Trimming the sails is a very important skill to master. As seen in figure 22, the Wind Clock, there are approximately five major points of sail. With each point of sail, there is an appropriate sail position and an appropriate direction of travel with respect to the wind. The Wind Clock can be very useful if the wind and the direction in which a boat sails are lined up properly. If a sailor wishes to sail in a direction for example in between a beam reach and a broad reach, there must be a method for properly positioning the sail. This is the skill of trimming the sails. A properly positioned sail will have the wind flow smoothly over both sides of the sail. Let's look once again at figure 10.

This diagram shows a sail in the correct position. If the sail was positioned improperly there would be fluttering (or luffing) on the front part (or luff) of the sail. To make this adjustment there are three simple steps to follow. 1. The skipper should set the course for the sailboat. Once this course is set, the skipper should steer the boat in a straight line. 2. The crew should now position the sail and let out the main sheet until the mainsail is luffing slightly at the luff of the sail. 3. Then sheet in the main sheet until the luffing stops.

These are the simple steps to properly adjust the mainsail. The jib works in exactly the same manner. Please ensure that the jib is sheeted from the leeward side of the boat. This is shown in figure 24. The last point about trimming sails is that trimming should be done on a constant basis. The wind, as experienced sailors will attest, oscillates and changes direction constantly. This places even more emphasis on learning how to trim the sails. Trimming the sails leads nicely to the next aspect of sailing that this manual will cover: tacking and gybing.


As seen earlier, a boat cannot sail directly into the wind. In irons the wind does not catch the sails, and there is nothing to power a boat forward. It is for this reason that we must learn how to tack. Tacking is the way in which a boat can get to a point directly upwind from its current position. The actual procedure of tacking is when a boat on one tack (port for example), passes its bow through the wind until the sails fill on the other side (to a starboard tack). Figure 25, outlines the way to tack to an upwind position.

Tacking is a simple process, but to ensure the safety of both the skipper and the crew there are five steps to follow.

The skipper will alert the crew by yelling READY ABOUT.
The crew will reply READY, when they are ready to tack.
The skipper will then yell "TACKING!, and push the tiller to turn the bow into the wind.

The crew will release the jib sheet on the leeward side. Then as the boat assumes its position on the opposite tack, they will pull the jib sheet in on the other side.

It is the skipper's responsibility to control the mainsheet and the boat direction throughout the tack.

For safety reasons, both the skipper and the crew should clear themselves of any lines or obstacles before tacking.

Tacking is a relatively safe maneuver compared to gybing, which is the procedure that will be covered in the next section.


Gybing occurs as a boat travels away from the wind, as opposed to tacking where the boat travels into the wind. Gybing is also different from tacking in that gybing crosses the stern of the boat into the wind, and not the bow. Figure 26 shows the path of a boat that is gybing.

Before learning how to gybe, an important concept to be aware of is sailing by the lee. Figure 27 shows a sailboat that is sailing by the lee. A boat is sailing by the lee when the wind crosses the wrong side of the stern. Normally the wind will cross the windward side of the boat before it hits the sail. A sailboat sailing by the lee has the wind cross the leeward side of the boat first. This can be extremely dangerous, and should never be done unless the boat is gybing.

When a boat is in this position, the boom can swing over at any time. During a gybe, the skipper and the crew must be careful to communicate with one another. They must also keep their heads low, where it is convenient to do so. Due to the nature of a gybe, it is not always possible to control the movement of the boom. It is for this reason that the crew and skipper should be aware of where the wind is coming from and how the boom is behaving. Gybing is also referred to as tacking downwind. Here are five steps to follow to perform a properly controlled gybe.

The skipper should steer the boat so that the boat sails by the lee.
The skipper should alert the crew by yelling READY TO GYBE.
The crew will reply READY, when they are ready to tack.

The skipper will yell GYBE HO, to indicate that the boat is gybing. The skipper will also push the tiller slightly so that the stern of the boat passes through the wind.

Then, in a controlled manner, the skipper will use the mainsheet to pull the boom over to the other side.

The crew should undo the jib sheet on the leeward side of the sailboat, and then the crew should pull the jib sheet on the other side of the boat.

Tacking and gybing are important sailing skills to master. All of sailing encompasses one of these two skills. An application of these skills will be the man overboard procedure. In order to properly perform a rescue, knowledge of tacking and gybing is essential.

Man Overboard

This term is fairly self-explanatory. The man overboard procedure can be applied to a number of situations, including: the rescue of an individual or the recovery of dropped equipment.

In dinghies, the most common cause of people falling overboard is missing the hiking strap with their toes, or having the hiking strap break. Figure 28 shows the proper path to follow when performing a man overboard procedure.

The steps to perform a proper man overboard procedure are as follows:

If the person does not have a life jacket, immediately throw one to him/her.
As the skipper or crew will be sailing alone, sail with only the mainsail.
Bear away from the wind.
Gybe around.
Head up towards the person in the water.
Release the sails and coast to leeward of the person overboard.
Pull the person into the boat with the sails luffing.

This is a very important procedure. It is a good idea to practice this procedure to get the feel of handling a sailboat alone. The next important procedure to learn is capsizing. This procedure, much like man overboard, should be practiced regularly.


The best way to deal with capsizing, is to learn how to avoid it. Capsizing occurs when the sailboat is no longer upright. In other words, the boat rests in the water on its side (see figure 29. One of the most common ways in which boats capsize is during a gybe. This is why there has been emphasis placed on doing controlled gybes. Performing a controlled gybe will help minimize the violent swinging of the boom, which leads to unnecessary heeling of the boat. Another common way that a boat can capsize is when a crew and skipper encounter a gust of wind for which they are not prepared for. Letting go of the mainsheet is the most effective way to deal with this situation. If however, the boat does capsize, figure 29 shows the way to right a capsized boat. Figure 29 also outlines the proper method to right a turtled boat. Turtling is when the boat becomes inverted in the water. This will normally happen if the skipper does not get to the center board quickly enough. As has been mentioned before, before leaving the dock for a day of sailing, the centerboard must be lowered and tied down. This becomes even more important in capsize and turtle situations, since it is the centerboard that is used to right a capsized boat.

The procedure for righting a capsized or turtled boat is as follows:

The crew and skipper should alert one another that they are OK. The first priority in a capsize situation is the safety of the occupants of the boat. If one of the persons is trapped or injured, that situation should be dealt with first.

Once crew and skipper have alerted one another that each is all right, the skipper should get to the center board and the crew should swim to the front of the boat and grab the painter.

The crew should swim the bow of the boat into the wind (into irons).

Capsizing: The skipper, with the bow into the wind, will climb onto the centerboard, to right the boat. This is show in figure 29c. Turtling: The procedure for capsizing and turtling are the same up to this point. The skipper, instead of using only the centerboard to right the boat, must use a jib sheet and the centerboard to right the boat. This is shown in figure 29d.

Once the boat is righted and both the skipper and crew have entered the boat, all the water must be bailed out of the boat.

Capsizing can be a terrible experience; this is why sailors should be familiar with the procedure and the possible problems that may arise. On a sunny day with little to no wind, capsizing practice can be refreshing and enjoyable.

As of this point, the manual has almost all the topics that a sailor would need for a day of sailing. The last important topic is landing at a dock

Landing at a dock

Landing at a dock is much like the man overboard procedure, in that the sailors will want to follow a route so that they may release the sails and coast to a desired location. There is danger here, since a sailboat that is traveling too fast can cause damage to both the dock and the boat. Most docks will be positioned so that an in irons landing can be achieved. If this is not the case, consider lowering all the sails and paddling the boat into the harbor. Figure 30 shows three boats attempting an in irons landing. A boat will coast for approximately three boat lengths upwind before coming to a rest. This is shown in figure30a. Figure 30b shows a boat performing a proper landing. Figure 30c shows a boat that has been too cautious and has missed the dock. In this case the sailboat will have to approach the dock again, or paddle to the dock. Figure 30d shows a boat that has not allowed enough room to coast gently into the dock. As a result this sailboat has struck the dock. Keep in mind that three boat lengths is a general guideline. The distance that a boat will coast, will very with the intensity of the wind, and the height of the waves.

It is important for new sailors to be comfortable with their sailing skills before attempting any difficult landings. The way for these new sailors to become comfortable with procedures such as man overboard, landing at docks and capsizing is to practice them. In particular, those procedures which require a degree of boat handling skills.

Please see Appendix I for Part III test, drills and required skills.

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