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!

You can learn to sail and improve your sailing with NauticEd, the international leader in sailing education.


NED Sailing Simulator

Before you play with NED, read this first.

The graphic below is representative of a real wind meter on a sailboat. You’ll notice that the red triangle represents the relative position of the wind to the boat. On a real wind meter, the boat always faces up because you’re always behind the meter. With NED, for simulation purposes and to give you a feel that the boat is turning when you activate the helm button, the boat turns with the helm but it immediately flicks back up to its normal proper position. You’ll notice the wind direction and the HDG (compass heading) have changed appropriately. Hover over NED’s components to gain a better understanding before you start poking and clicking. Then, please enjoy NED. Additional instructions are below. 

Full instructions for NED are below. Turn off the tooltips after you understand how NED works.

Figure 2.2-1 Ned The Sailing Simulator


How to use NED – the Sailing Simulator

  • First – mouse over each of the elements of NED and you’ll learn what they do.
  • NED is your virtual sailing instructor. NED will teach you how to correctly trim the sails on almost any sailboat with a mainsail and headsail.
  • Your sails will be correctly trimmed when your boat speed reaches its maximum for any particular wind speed and direction.
  • You can turn the boat into or away from the wind, let the sails out, or tighten them up and you can adjust the speed of the wind.
  • NED represents the real-world polar plot of a real racer-cruiser sailboat. It’s the closest thing you can get to sailing instruction online.

NED’s Elements

The helm is controlled by the split button at the bottom center of NED.

Click the starboard split and the sailboat will turn to starboard. You’ll notice the boat will straighten up once you have released the helm button. This is because on a real wind meter on a real boat, the boat always stays pointing up and the meter tells you where the wind is in relation to your boat. Once the boat straightens up, you’ll notice the wind angle and the heading will have changed according to how much you turned.

Hold the helm button down and the boat will turn 5 degrees every ½ second or so.

Sails are controlled by the winches which are located on port and starboard at the bottom of NED. The starboard winch controls the head sail. The port winch controls the mainsail.

NED gives you a number above each winch to represent the number of turns on the winch. The jib sheet is winched between 12 turns (all the way out) and 45 turns (all the way in). The main sail is winched between 5 turns (all the way out) and 35 turns (all the way in).

Wind Vector
The red triangular arrow located outside the wind dial represents where the wind is coming from. Click on the triangular arrow and you’ll be able to adjust the speed of the wind. Initially, the wind starts at 60 degrees off your starboard bow.

The heading changes when you click or hold down the helm button. Initially, you are heading north.

Efficiency Meter.
The horizontal meter at the bottom of NED indicates to you how efficiently your sails are trimmed.

If the meter is all the way to the left you have some trimming to do. If it’s all the way to the right, your sails are perfectly trimmed and your boat speed should be maximized.

Heel Angle
The closer your boat is trimmed to 30 degrees off the wind and the greater the wind speed, the greater will be the heel angle. This represents the real world and there is nothing you can do about it except reef your sails. NED may incorporate this feature in later versions.

The changing depth meter merely simulates that you are moving. There is no control here. However, in the real world, you should always watch the depth.

Once you’ve mastered NED, you’re ready for the Nauticed Skipper Course and the NauticEd Full Sail Trim Clinic


Learn Basic Sail Trim for FREE...

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.