Lesson 2

This Introductory lesson is designed to help familiarize you with basic aspects of sailing.


Just as in driving on the highway, signs are sometimes needed to direct traffic and show where it is safe to go. Signs on waterways are called aids to navigation. They can be buoys or fixed markers like street signs.


In the lateral system of buoyage the markers designate the sides of the channel. When returning to a harbor from the sea, red markers with even numbers mark the right hand side of the channel. Green markers with odd numbers mark the left hand side. Red fixed markers are triangular with apex upward. Unlighted red buoys are called nun buoys. They are tapered with the small end up. On the other side of the channel, green fixed markers are square and the buoys called can buoys have flat tops. In channels where traffic must stay to the right, mid channel buoys mark the center of the channel. They are vertically stripped red and white.

When two channels branch, junction markers are used. They horizontally banded with red and green. The band on top represents the color of the marker as it marks the pflmary channel. Special non-lateral buoys are white with orange. They mark hazards without reference to a particular channel.


Wind Change - Header

As you learned on lesson 1, it's important when sailing to be aware of the relative angle of the wind to the boat so that you can keep the sails in the right configuration for the particular wind angle. Sometimes you can have everything right but then the wind changes direction, you will have to re-adjust. Understanding the two kinds of wind shifts will help you adjust to them easily.

When the wind changes to a direction more to the bow of the boat it is called a header. A header will usually cause the sails to luff. You can do either of two things to adjust for a header. One is to bear away until the boat has the original wind angle again. The other is to trim the sheets so that the sails are correct for the closer wind angle. If you are already sailing close hauled when you get a header, you can't trim any more. In this case, you can either bear away or come about.



Wind Change - Lift

When the wind shifts to a direction away from the bow, it is called a lift. When a lift happens, the sails will become over trimmed for the new wind angle. An over trimmed situation is more difficult to detect than a luffing situation. The way to be ready for a lift is by keeping an eye on the telltales so if a lift does occur, you will notice the change. You can adjust for a lift either by easing the sheets or by heading the boat up to meet the new wind angle. If you're not sure whether a lift has occurred, try easing the sheets anyway. When they are out too far, the sails will begin to luff. Then you can pull them back in to stop the luffing. Lifts are beneficial when you are beating to windward. They enable you to change your course to a direction closer to your destination.


Adjusting Sail Area for Changes in Wind Conditions

When sailing, there is continuous interaction between wind and sails. This interaction is what generates the power to move the boat. Speed, performance, and control are greatly influenced by the amount of sail area exposed to the wind. When the wind is light, the boat requires more sail area in order to perform properly. When there is strong wind, the boat requires less sail area If there is too much sail area the boat will be over-powered

In different wind conditions, the main sail is reduced by a technique called reefing. The area of the jib is usually adjusted by changing to a different jib. A boat with too much sail area exposed for the wind condition will become hard to handle, and may even be forced out of control. The boat will also heel excessively. Excessive heeling forces more of the boat's hull surface area into the water. This also creates more friction and drag, slowing the boat. As the boat heels, less keel is presented to the water and this increases leeway. (sideways drift) Leeway will greatly affect upwind performance and pointing ability.

Overpowering can also force the boat off course. The helmsman must compensate by holding the tiller to one side. The increased rudder angle will act as a brake, slowing the boat down and affecting control. A boat with too much sail area for the wind conditions will move slower, make the crew work harder, be less comfortable since it is heeling over more, and will be harder to keep on course. when the sail area is reduced, the excess wind pressure is relieved. The boat will sail easier, faster, and be easier to keep on course. Using reduced sail area does not make the crew "less able" sailors. There is nothing embarrassing about reducing the sail area.


Reducing the Jib - In basic sailing, jibs can be changed by simply lowering and removing the existing jib, stowing it, and replacing it with the new jib. The fairleads may have to be re-positioned. Generally, the smaller the jib, the farther forward the fairleads have to be. Racers often have more complicated ways of changing jibs that minimize the amount of time under no headsail. But for now you can use the simple technique described here.


Light Airs 0 - 10 Knots 110% - 150% Genoa (Optional)
Moderate Airs 0 - 18 Knots 90% -110% Working Jib
Heavy Airs 20 or more 60% - 90% Storm Jib

Jib Selection continued ››

The jib can be changed on just about any point of sail. Here are the steps for changing the jib:

  1. Ease the jib halyard and lower the jib. Gather the sail on the foredeck making sure that the sail doesn't fall into the water.
  2. Disconnect the halyard from the head of the jib. Secure the halyard. Never allow either end of the halyard to hang free.
  3. Stow the lowered sail.
  4. Hank on the new sail.
  5. Run the sheets aft, checking the faiflead position.
  6. Put knots in the end of the sheets.
  7. Connect the halyard to the head of the jib.
  8. Hoist the new jib.



Reducing the Main Sail

The area of the mainsail is reduced by a technique called reefing. This is much easier than changing the sail. Reefing is done by lowering the mainsail, establishing a new tack and clew using control lines, and hoisting the mainsail again with the bottom part no longer exposed to the wind. The two control lines are the reefing downhaul and the reefing outhauL Some boats have a tack hook at the gooseneck instead of a reefing downhaul. Reefing Downhaul - The reefing downhaul line goes up through a cringle on the luff of the sail and is used to pull down and secure the forward edge of the sail to the boom near the gooseneck. Some boats have reef tack hooks instead of reef downhauls.

Reefing Outhaul - The reefing outhaul line goes up through a cringle on the leech and and back to the boom to pull down and secure the back edge of the sail.

Steps for Reefing the Main Sail

  • Ease out the main until it luffs.
  • Ease off the main halyard. If reefing downhaul is used, lower until reef downhaul cringle comes to about 6 inches above the gooseneck and secure halyard.
  • Hook reefing tack on gooseneck or pull in and secure the reefing downhaul to get the tack reef point as close to the boom as possible. On downhaul models this should tighten the luff, if not, raise the halyard a little more and try again.
  • On boats with reef hooks tighten main halyard to achieve luff tension.
  • Pull in and secure the reefing outhaul to get the clew reef point as close to the boom as possible. (A tight boom vang can prevent you from pulling in outhaul properly.)
  • Trim the mainsheet, roll up the left-over sail bunt, and tie it up with the reef ties. Once the reef has been set, the boat will be much easier to control. In addition to to being easier to steer, it will heel less and move more efficiently through the water.

Some main sails may have more than one set of reef points. If this is the case, you may have separate control lines. If there is more than one reef, the bottom one is called the first reef, the next one up is the second, etc.

The important thing to remember when reefing is to get both the tack reef point and the clew reef point as tight as possible to the boom. This is for two reasons.

1. The tension at the bottom of the sail should be at the two corners. The corners are reinforced to hold the tension but if they are loose, the tension transfers along the bottom edge to the reef ties. The reef ties are not designed to take the tension. If too much is put on them, the sail distorts and can even be torn. The reef ties should actually be kept a little loose.

2. The other function of reefing besides reducing Sail area is Sail flattening. A flatter Sail shape will help to prevent the sail from catching too much wind. The sail is made flatter by having all three corners pulled tight. Flat sails help make the boat more controllable in heavy wind.


Sail Set - Even when you get good at Sail trim there is another kind of control that will make a big difference in the performance of the boat. It is sail set. Set is the curvature of the sail and is mostly controlled by adjusting luff tension. High tension makes a flatter sail and low tension makes a fliller sail shape. Luff tension is a function of halyard tension or downhaul (Cunningham) tension. When the set is right, the luff of the sail has neither the tendency to have horizontal Wrinkles or a vertical crease. when there is too much halyard tension you can see a long vertical crease running up the luff. If the tension is a little loose, you can see smail horizontai wrinkles along the luff. If it is very loose, luff scallops will appear on jibs that have hanks.

The same principle applies to the foot of the mainsail. You should have enough outhaul tension to pull the wrinkles out of the foot of the main without actually pulling a crease into the foot. The outhaul will control the set of the bottom portion of the main sail. Other controls for sail set are the traveler (ease the traveler for flatter sails), and the backstay adjuster. (tighten the backstay for flatter sails)

The jib in the illustration is used to increase the flow of air across the back side of the mainsail, helping to create even less pressure. This produces more lift, increasing the pulling force to windward. The use of the venturi principal in this way on sailboats is called the slot effect.

Extreme Examples of Jib Luffs that are Too Tight or Too Loose On main sails and jibs that don't have hanks it's a little more difficult to see the wrinkles but they are still there and can still be used. As you tighten the haiyard or downhaul watch the luff of the sail. At the moment the luff tape becomes smooth you have the right amount of tension. As the wind increases, it becomes necessary to flatten the sails a bit more by having tighter luff and foot tension. Many times sails will appear to be too tight when they are luffing or when there is a lull in the wind. Then, when sheets are trimmed or the wind builds back up, the vertical luff crease will pull itself out. Stretch should be kept in mind when raising sails. You may have to over tighten them just a little so that when you begin to sail, the set will be just right. Serious racers often re-adjust their sail set every time the wind changes in strength. This makes more work but gives them maximum sail efficiency at all times.




Sailing can be safe as well as fun if you follow a few simple guidelines on and around sailboat.

Wearing a Personal Flotation Device 'PFD' (life jacket) can save your life!

If you have happen to fall in San Francisco the average water temperature is around 54 degrees. Not having to expend energy to keep yourself afloat will increase your chances of avoiding hypothermia. You don't have to wear one to be legal but it's a very sensible choice for newcomers to sailing.

Whenever you go sailing, make sure to bring clothes that can be layered to help keep you warm, dry and comfortable.

When going forward or moving about while a boat is underway, keep your weight low, walk on the windward side, and keep a hold of something secure like a grab rail or shroud. These things will reduce the risk of going over- board.

Be wary of going barefoot on a sailboat until you are used to where deck hardware and areas of good traction are.

Be sure to bring comfortable shoes with white or non-marking soles.

Rigging is generally made of twisted stainless cable, and older rigging sometimes sprouts "meathooks". This occurs when a stainless strand breaks near a turnbuckle. These needle sharp protrusions can rip up a finger or palm quite nicely, so be on the look out.

If you are feeling seasick, go below and don't look at the water or watch the horizon and keep busy.

When docking or boarding, don't jump from the boat to the dock. When docking wait until the boat is close enough to the dock so that you can step off.

Most of the things involving safety are common sense. If you have any questions about safety, (or anything else about boating) ask a sailing instructor or an experienced sailing friend.