A Guide to Tacking a Sailboat


A majority of the sailboats have the capability to sail about 45-50 degrees off the wind or instance, when the wind blows from north, sail northwest or northeast. Sailing doesn’t cost the earth, so it’s a skill well worth learning.  Coming about or tacking is an act of turning from one side to the other in the direction of the wind.

Tips to Tack Small Boat with Mainsail

  • You have to prepare to tack starting with sheeting the mainsail tightly and sailing close to the wind. However, make sure you do not lose boat speed.
  • It is necessary to let other crews know that you are going to tack.
  • A small boat that doesn’t have a ballast, you need to move to the other side of the boat for tacking. Make sure that you are free of equipment and lines and can move with speed. If you don’t, the boat might be capsized or blown over.
  • When you are ready, you need to let the crew members know. Use the signal that is used. It is important to steer clear of the boom and then move the weight to the other side since the boat can come up in the mind and might lie flat on the water.
  • With the turn continuing, the mainsail and the boom cross the centerline and the sail is going to fill the other side. Thereafter, steer for staying on the new heading close as you haul on the other rack. You should be careful about not steering too far away from the other side of the wind. This is because a small boat that has the mainsail trimmed tightly can be capsized or blown over.

If you are sailing in a mainsail traveler, it is better to center your traveler prior to tacking and readjusting.

Tips to Tack a Sailboat with Jib

Tacking a sailboat with jib is quite like the steps that have been given above except for some additional steps given below by our resident Sailing Expert from Scotland.

  • When you are about to start the turn, you need to prepare the jib sheets. The jib which you are using should be released while tacking and the other one has to be brought up as soon as the job crosses over to the other side. Do not forget to ensure if your crew is ready to abide by your commands.
  • While you make the tack, the jib is going back. You will have to release the jib sheet during this time. Let it out as soon as you can but don’t snag the line on anything present on the cockpit. Also, pull the jib sheet, simultaneously, to the other side so that the jib isn’t blown flapping far out towards the side. If it is a larger boat, get jib sheet over the winch when it becomes difficult to pull in and crack the winch faster for trimming the sail towards the new heading.

Tacking is not a difficult task if you have two or three crew members to help you out and your actions are coordinated.


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