This article is an excerpt from NauticEd’s online FREE Basic Sail Trim Course, an interactive online sailing course for beginner to intermediate sailors to learn the basics of sail trim. Or if you want to learn more, upgrade to the Skipper Course Bundle to become a competent sailor!

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Air Flow over the Sails

Similar to steady flight, we’ve got to keep the air flowing over the sails smoothly. Anytime the angle of the wind across the lifting side of the sail becomes too great, the sail stalls. Wind molecules detach from the lifting side of the sail and turbulent flow is produced thus reducing the lift.

The result is not as dramatic as in an airplane but you will get a noticeable loss in speed if your sail is producing a turbulent flow of air when set at the wrong angle.

On this animation, click and drag on the slider bar. Watch the airflow as you increase the sail angle to the wind. At the beginning, it is set to its optimum, but as you pull in the sail watch the turbulent flow begin to spawn.

Figure 1.3-3 Turbulent Airflow Behind the Sail

To ensure the smooth (laminar) flow of air over the sail and thus the greatest forward-producing force on the sail we’ve got to make sure that we’re positioning the sail at its optimum setting based on the wind direction relative to the boat.


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Source: Basic Sail Trim
Topic: Sails and Sail Trim
Authors: Grant Headifen, NauticEd Global Director of Education
NauticEd is a fully recognized education and certification platform for sailing students combining online and on-the-water real instruction (and now VR). NauticEd offers +24 online courses, a free sailor's toolkit that includes 2 free courses, and six ranks of certification – all integrated into NauticEd’s proprietary platform. The USCG and NASBLA recognize NauticEd as having met the established American National Standards.