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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Holding a Constant Heading while Adjusting the Sails

Here, we’re heading to a specific point on land or a compass heading. Thus to keep the sails flying efficiently, we’ve got to adjust the sail set with the varying wind gusts.

If you’ve ever been in a sailboat race you’re completely familiar with the helmsperson constantly steering the wheel and/ or the sail trimmers trimming the sails. Every little change makes a difference that could mean line honors or not.

Here’s NED again. This time watch the efficiency bar across the bottom. You’ll notice the tiniest adjustment to the sails makes a huge difference to efficiency. Sailors who win races fly their sails at 100% efficiency almost all the time. Turn off the tooltips after you understand how NED works.


Figure 2.2-1 NED the Sailing Instructor (repeated)

Telltales are positioned on both sides of the sail and also staggered in positions vertically up the sail. Every telltale is working to tell us what we want to know about the sail at that point.

A photographer friend of mine commented to me once when we were sailing “Wow – you see wind like I see light”. Now that took some explaining but eventually, I got what he meant. Initially, he could not understand how I could “see” the wind. After explaining about the tell tales, ripples on the water, smoke on the horizon, other sailboats, clouds moving, birds crabbing across the wind, flags, wind noise in one ear vs. the other, etc, etc., he proceeded to explain about shadows, diffused light, direct light, overexposure, etc. The point is that as you get good at sailing you CAN see the wind.

So at any one time whilst sailing, you’re processing all the wind data coming into your brain and deciding what to do with it. Sometimes you’re even figuring out how to waste or “spill” the wind because it’s too great.

Right then, that’s Module 2. Let’s run a short test to ensure you gained the knowledge.


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A FREE 1-2 hour course that teaches how to work with sails to get your boat moving. The free Basic Sail Trim Course is for any aspiring sailor as well as experienced sailors wanting to learn more. Or, consider upgrading to the Skipper Course Bundle to become a fully competent skipper!

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.