Note: Most of the content of this post is from the “School of Sailing” website. You can use the link to pursue building your sailing knowledge at that site.
Tacking and Jibing
If our destination or the direction of the wind change we will need to change our course. Many times this means changing the tack of the boat. If you refer back to Points of Sail you will see there are two tacks the boat can be on; starboard or port. Starboard tack boats carry their boom and mainsail on the port side while port tack boats do the opposite. When changes tacks we are moving the boom to the other side of the boat and usually move the head sail there also.
Tacking the boat is putting the bow through the eye of the wind. Sailboats can’t sail directly into the wind so if our destination lies upwind we will need to tack back and forth to get there. Let’s look at what a tack looks like.
Some boat speed is required to insure we make it all the way through our tack. This is especially important for catamarans and slow, full keeled monohulls. If you do get stuck part way through it’s called ‘in irons’, just push the boom out and get the boat going backwards, if even a little. In short order you’ll be able to sail again. Tacking is a basic sailing skill, proficiency comes with a bit of practice.
Jibing is putting the stern of the boat through the eye of the wind. Here, we must be vigilant about an accidental jibe. Unlike the tack above where the boom is moving slowly, when we jibe the boom is given to violent move and if we are not prepared damage can be done to boat equipment and any bodies that get in the way. Let’s take a close look at how this maneuver can be carried out.
Unlike tacking where we need boat speed to carry us through in jibing it is better to do it slowly until you’ve become very proficient. The boom coming across the boat is dangerous and must be done in a controlled manner.
Practice tacking and jibing often. A good way to do this is to practice lots of crew overboard recoveries. You can learn more by going to Crew Overboard.