This article is an excerpt from NauticEd’s online Skipper Course, a comprehensive online sailing course for beginner to intermediate sailors to learn how to sail large sailboats 26 ft (8m) and above. Or upgrade to the Skipper Course Bundle to also master maneuvering under power and docking!
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Take Note When the Boat Heels Over or Stands Up
At a sailing group meeting, someone mentioned they were having trouble determining if the boat was pinching or not. My reply was that the boat stands up. After a moment of uncomfortable silence . . . I had to explain myself.
Pinching is a term to describe the boat heading too close to the wind. Someone is usually pinching if they are trying to sail to a destination that is too close to where the wind is coming from. When you do this your boat speed reduces dramatically and you’re better off bearing away from your destination, picking up speed, and tacking one last time to your destination.
When you start pinching, the apparent wind will be less than 30 degrees off the bow of the boat. It means you’re heading too close to the origin of the wind, so the wind cannot provide lift and pressure properly on the sails. With no pressure, the heeling force is reduced and so the boat literally “stands up” straight. If you’re sailing along heeled over and you begin to feel the boat stand up straight, you’re starting to pinch. Bear away.
Go through the animation here several times to view what is happening to the boat.
The concept of increased wind speed and changing course will potentially bamboozle you when starting out. From the NauticEd FREE Basic Sail Trim course, you gained a better understanding of true and apparent wind than most sailors on the planet. You know that if either the boat speed or true wind speed changes in magnitude this affects the direction and speed of the apparent wind. This creates the need to make course corrections.
Some Wind Shift Definitions
- Forward wind shift means the wind that you feel comes more from the front of the boat.
- Aft wind shift means the wind that you feel comes now more from the stern.
- Veering wind means the wind changes in a clockwise direction: If it was a northeaster then a veered wind might be an easterly.
- Backing wind means wind changes in a counterclockwise direction: If it was a northeaster then a backed wind might be a northerly.
- You can almost instantly tell what the true wind is doing by the action of the boat. If the boat suddenly stands up taller (less heeling), the true wind has gotten lighter or has shifted forward—thus you should bear away. If the boat heels farther over, the true wind has gotten stronger or has shifted aft—thus you should head up.
Lifts—Knocks and Actions to Take Advantage
On close-haul headings, a wind lift is when you can change the boat direction in a more windward direction and keep power in the sails. You are “lifted” toward your destination. A wind knock is where you must change the boat direction to maintain power in the sails to a more downwind direction. You are “knocked” down off your course.
- True wind gets lighter—boat stands up—bear away—called a knock.
- True wind shifts forward—boat stands up—bear away—called a knock.
- True wind gets stronger—boat heels over—head up—called a lift.
- True wind shifts aft—boat heels over—head up—called a lift.
- In other points of sail, you simply trim the sails to take advantage of the wind shift.
You can learn more in the Skipper Course....
Knowledge and theory for longer distances and overnight sailing in diverse conditions. The Skipper Course is a comprehensive sailing course for beginner to intermediate sailors wanting to learn how to sail larger sailboats 26ft to 56ft. Or upgrade to the Skipper Course Bundle to also master maneuvering under power and docking!