Sailing Theory – The Basics for Beginners

Everybody can learn how to sail with basic, intermediate and advanced lessons from a reliable training and sailing center. However, before you consider enrolling in a sailing school, it is best that you have a basic understanding on how sailing works, including the sailing theory that will be your basis and your fundamentals of becoming an experienced sailor in the near future.

To begin with, here are some basic terms that you need to know when learning how to sail. In sailing, you greatly depend on the force of the wind. The force of the wind is measured either in knots and ofter classed against the beaufort scale depeding the speed of the wind. There are in fact two forces at play: one which is on the top of the water, and one which is on below the water surface. The center of the force below the surface of the water is generally called as the center of lateral resistance (CLR). On the other hand, the center of the wind force above the water surface is called as the center of effort (CE). As mentioned earlier, the boat mainly relies on wind, but there are additional factors as well. Balancing (or Sail setting or Trimming of the sails) also plays an important role and is the key element in getting the optimum performance from your boat. In sailing theory, your job as a sailor is to ensure that the CLR (center of lateral resistance) and the CE (center of effort) are balanced properly to make sure that your boat will properly sail and will run smoothly. To add up to which, here are additional theories that could help one further understand how a boat sails and how one could control the boat.

Sailing to Windward Theory

The upwind theory or also known as windward is a challenging aspect of sailing which requires both skills, patience and practice to develop and master. This sailing theory is most of the time performed when the center of lateral resistance is stronger than the center of effort. As it has been mentioned earlier, it is important that both resistance and wind forces must be balanced. Thus, if the CLR is stronger, you could use the windward theory to balance and to run the sail smoothly.

Running with the Wind Theory

Running with the wind or downwind theory, the airflow is stalled. It usually doesn’t depend on the force below the water’s surface. Instead, you depend on the wind above the surface and let the boat drag your sail. This is why the downwind theory is known as running with the wind – you just let the wind take control of your boat. But as a sailor, it is your responsibility to make sure that the aerodynamic speed won’t affect your boat’s direction and continuously monitor if wind direction and speed would change as you sail along.

Reaching Theory

This is the easiest sailing theory to understand - when your boat is travelling perpendicular to the wind; this is what you call as reaching. This is where the sailor makes use of a beam reach to adjust the sail at the boat’s right angle to sail properly.