Position away from the wind beam reach sailing and lying to sailing principles of sailing away from the wind and no sail zone are dinghy sailing fundamentals along with the fastest point of sail. Sailing techniques and skills
Learning to sail boats has similar sequences of operations such as driving a car, which appear confusing but soon are reflex actions. The basics of sailing a boat requires learning the wind direction, the points of sail, sailing fundamentals and how to change course. Sailing basics is acquiring the skill of knowing how the boat reacts to the wind on all points of sail, and be able to change course smoothly and efficiently and learn how to stop the boat. When learning to sail, the skill needed to leave and return to the shore under sail will come later, so row or paddle away from shore, then hoist the sails.
One of the dinghy sailing basics is an awareness of wind direction, so the initial step is to develop this awareness. Look for telling signs such as smoke and flags and equate the action of surface waves and wavelets as to an indication of wind direction. Another useful, and accurate, indicator is a masthead flag or 'windex'. Being able to sense the wind's direction by feeling it blowing on your face or ears is a useful skill.
The function of the setting the sails is to get the boat sailing with the optimum set of the sails allowing efficient drive at maximum speed. To vary the speed, adjust the sails away from their optimum position. This then gives the required amount of drive required when manoeuvring to pick up a mooring, come alongside another boat or to approach a landing place.
The first basic sailing skill is to learn the three ways of stopping the boat from moving in the water, involving the wind working in your favour. The most controlled method is heaving to with other simple techniques such as lying to method and the head-to-wind method, which empty the sails of wind causing them to flap losing forward drive. Lying to is the stable option with the boat drifting until the sails are pulled in. When confident with these two ways of stopping try the more controlled [ heaving to ].
The head-to-wind position, the wind pushes the boat backwards due to the windage of the flapping sails. The bow starts to turn in either direction which is affected by the rudder position then the sails fill and the boat starts to sail. Use this method when stopping alongside a mooring or pontoon or other boat.
To lie-to, turn the boat onto a close reach letting both sails out fully. [ Lying to ] is not possible when the boat is pointing further offwind, because as the mainsail is let out, the sail hits the shrouds and refills with wind. Sailing away from the lying to position requires sheeting in both sails and the boat moves forwards.
The [ head-to-wind ] stop requires turning the dinghy until the bow points into the wind. This causes the sails to lose wind and flap along the centreline of the boat, bringing it to a stop. Decide which way you want the bow to move when sailing away from a head-to wind position. Then pull the jib across to the opposite side, known as backing the jib, and this will push the bow in the desired direction. After the boat has turned, trim both sails correctly and sail off.
The head-to-wind method of stopping reveals an area of about 45° on either side of the wind direction in which it is not possible to point the boat and maintain sailing. Sailing close hauled, means sailing along the edge of the no-sail zone and pointing closer to the wind. To sail to a point upwind within this no-sail zone requires sailing a series of zigzags, on one tack then on the other, progressing to windward with each tack and called beating to windward and this requires an undertanding of the points of sail and sail trim.
The [ principal points of sail ] is the angles to the wind at which a boat can sail. These points of sail are called the reach, close reach, close-hauled, broad reach and run as depicted in the points of sail diagram. The reach (or beam reach) is the key to all sailing manoeuvres, and it is the most exciting and fastest point of sail. When reaching, the boat is sailing across the wind with the wind blowing at right angles to the boat with the centreboard half down, and the sails sheeted in to set them.
The boat's speed when sailing on a point of sail is dependent on a range of factors such as;
Potential boat speeds on points of sail in the same wind strength are depicted in a [ polar diagram ] . The further away from the centre of the polar diagram represents the boats speed. It shows the performance curve of a typical dinghy - reaching maximum speed on a beam reach while sailing the slowest on a run.
The five sailing fundamentals are the keys to efficient sailing on a boat. With every course change when sailing, a quick review of each point should be taken. These sailing fundamentals are sail trim, centreboard position, boat balance, boat trim and course made good.
Check sail trim by easing the sails out until there is shaking along the sail luff, then pull the sheets in until the shaking ceases. An easier way to check sail trim is by fitting tell-tales showing the wind flow across the [ headsail ] and [ mainsail] .
The centreboard counteracts sideways force which is the greatest when close hauled. Closer sailing towards the wind, requires the [ centerboard ] to be lowered, and turning away from the wind, the centerboard must be raised progressively to fully up on a run. The centreboard should have a small amount down in a run, providing a pivot point around which the boat can turn.
[ Heeling forces ] increase when sailing closer to the wind, so the helmsman and crew must both sit out to counteract these forces and keep the boat upright. When the wind strength changes, or there is a course alteration, the crew moves first to balance the boat.
Check the boat is trimmed correctly in a fore and aft direction:
If the wake is disturbed it indicates that weight is too far aft. Helmsman and crew should keep their weight concentrated in the middle of the boat allowing the bow and stern to lift easily with the waves.
Learning to change course introduces the different points of sailing. This provides an understanding how a boat sails, when experiencing the effects of the wind from different angles prior to learning to tack and gybe. Go through a complete change of course from sailing towards the wind or an upwind course, to sailing away from it or a downwind course by starting on a beam reach sailing directly across the wind.
Luffing up is turning the boat towards the wind on a more upwind course.
The run is the point of sail when the wind is directly behind the boat.
Remember turning toward the wind requires the sails to be sheeted in and centreboard lowered, and turning away from the wind requires the sails to be let out and the centreboard raised.