Sailing Tips Report ACCESS

This sailing tips report includes information that you will find useful. It is targeting people that are new to sailing as well as sailors that wants to learn more. Improving your skills and sailing competencies is crucial. Don’t assume you know it all because there is always something new out there for you to learn!  

Enjoy this sailing tips report and have fun while sailing!

We Prep, You Sail !

Essential facts in sailing:


Lines and ropes:  It is important to know the name of each line, the use or role of each line and the position and color of each line.  Lines that pull sails up are called halyards and lines that pull sails in are called sheets. Sails are hoisted using a line called ‘halyard’ and sails are trimmed using lines called ‘sheets’.

Sails configuration

  • The headsail or jib is the sail at the front of the boat. The Genoa is also a foresail, larger in size than a jib: there is usually a heavy and a light Genoa.
  • The sail’s lower two corners are the tack and the clew. The sheets are attached to the jib / headsail clew
  • The mainsail clew and tack are attached to the boom. The leading edge of the sail is called the ‘luff’, the back edge is called the ‘leech’ and the bottom edge is the ‘foot’. The top corner of the sail is the head, the bottom forward corner, the tack, and the rear bottom corner, the clew.

Know sailing terms before your first sailBecome familiar with some important sailing terms, which can provide a ground base for your learning and a helpful overview of sailing. For example, make sure you know the terminologies used for various elements in a cockpit (controlling lines, winch, …) and as part of a sailboat (mast, boom, headsail or jib, mainsail, …). Understand the difference between port/ starboard, and other important sailing concepts.

Sailing carries natural risks which can be taught and avoided by being cautious and aware.
For example, a skipper should recommend the crew to wear a PDF life-jacket, demonstrate to new crew members how to operate the motor, the boat radio and how to keep a good balance on a boat (one hand should also be on the boat and each).

Sailboats heel over when sailing, which is why people may be more likely to fall overboard, or to fall and hit part of the boat. The crew may move their weight to the high side of the boat (upwind), which changes the centre of gravity to reduce the degree of heeling. Sailing involves moving around the boat, pulling ropes, cranking winches, stowing sails and these activities take place using sails, boom and lines in motion.

Using a winch. To cast off or unload a winch, release the sheet from the self-tailer jaw and hold the coil with your hand flat on the rows or move the sheet in an angle that locks it. Release the sheet when the jib or headsail is starting to flap or back winding and unload the wraps upward from the top of the winch. This will avoid any potential incident of getting your fingers caught in the winch or the ropes.

Be aware of the boom at all times: Be aware of the boom height and keep the head low when the boat is manoeuvring. The boom can swing across the boat whenever you gybe and it can injure you or knock you overboard. Another thing to be cautious of is the main sheet trajectory, which follows the motion of a boom moving from one side to the other, with the same violence as the boom.

Main tasks prior to leaving the marina: Skipper briefs the crew about weather, destination and safety, then switches the batteries on and starts the engine. Crew to remove mooring line: leeward lines are the first to go and the crew is to hold the boat while windward lines are removed. Crew remove fenders for storage while leaving the marina, look out for danger in the water and check the depth.

To release a halyard: Take three turns around the winch and tension the line before releasing the clutch lever. Open the clutch lever and let the line run through with control

Naming the correct sheets: The jib sheet on the leeward side of the boat is the active sheet, while the sheet on the windward side is the lazy sheet.

Sail adjustments or trimming: Sail adjustments are required to keep the sails at a correct angle to the wind.

  • Watch the telltales to identify changes in wind angle. For a good trim, telltales should flow horizontally
  • As the boat changes direction, the trim should be adjusted by pulling or easing the sheets

How does the Telltales work for your trim:

  • When the windward telltale is fluttering, sheet in the jib or the skipper can bear away.
  • When the leeward telltale is fluttering, sheet out the sail toward the telltale, or the skipper can head up.

To release sheet tension:
Remove the sheet from the self-tailer and hold the coil with moderate pressure using your palm to control it. Ease the sheet a little, keeping the wrap stacked to avoid overrides. Once adjusted,  jam the sheet with a full wrap into the self-tailing jaw

To cast off or unload a winch: Release the sheet from the self-tailer jaw and hold the coil with your hand or move the sheet in an angle that locks it. Be ready to release the sheet when the helms person calls it.

  • The timing to release occurs when the boat is head-to-wind, when the headsail is starting to flap or back winding. Hold the release until enough back wind in the sail. The released sheet needs to be totally cast off and done quickly to allow the other trimmer to pull the other sheet in. Unload the wraps upward from the top of the winch (peel off).

Tacking or gybing manoeuvres:
When the bow of the boat turns into the wind and across, the boat completes a tack. The headsail sheet needs to be released at the right time during the manoeuvre. When the boat turns its stern through the wind, the boat completes a gybe. Control the boom during a gybe, as it crosses the cockpit over the centreline.

Sailing downwind involves gybing and pole set up:

  • A sailboat gybe when changing directions whilst sailing downwind. The boom is fully let out and must be controlled during the gybe.
  • The use of a pole to hold the headsail out of the mainsail ’wind shadow’ will increase the sailing angle and performance. Goose-winging is when the headsail is set up on the opposite side of the mainsail, which increases speed, balance the boat and make it easier to steer. Crew position in light to medium wind is forward to keep boat level

The return to the marina:
When the boat return to the marina, the crew gets the boat ready to bring the sails down and check there are NO lines in the water. The headsail is brought down first and the mainsail second. The crew prepares the boat for docking, coil ropes, cover instruments, winches and steering wheel, remove and store ropes and shackles, store the winch-handles, fold the jib and stow the mainsail, and secure lines to their original location.

Advanced sailing tips:


It is essential to know the direction of the wind by looking at the ‘Windex’ on top of the mast or by reading the boat instruments. When the wind direction changes, the angle of the wind to the boat changes and the boat assumes a different ‘point of sail’. Identifying these variations is important because each point of sail requires specific sail trim adjustments. There are five main points of sails: Head to wind, close hauled, beam reach, broad reach and running.

Both sails need to be balanced to keep the boat moving forward and to moderate the heeling angle:

  • The force on a mainsail tends to turn the bow of the boat into the wind
  • The force on a jib tends to turn the bow away from the wind
  • A correct trim between mainsail and jib generates a good forward propulsion in a straight line. The jib itself creates lift and provides a portion of the boat’s forward momentum.

Look at the jib’s leading edge to determine its trim:

  • A sail’s luff should face directly into the wind so that air streams equally on both sides
  • Optimum trimming aims at making the entire sail, from foot to head, present to the wind evenly and at the correct angle

Depending on which tack the boat is heading, the green or red telltales will be on the windward or leeward side:

  • If the windward telltales lifts (or if the inside telltales flutters) = Helmsman bear away or sheet in the sail
  • If the leeward telltales lifts (or If the outside telltales flutters)  =  Helmsman head up or ease the sheet out

Upwind sail: Bring the sail in as close to the rig as possible

  • In more wind the jib can be trimmed tighter and closer without causing a speed loss, and pointing will improve
  • In less wind, start relatively eased, and gradually trim harder once the boat is up to speed

Downwind sail: The sail is acting like a bag to ‘catch’ the wind whilst pushing the boat along

  • The sail need to be oriented perpendicular to the direction of the wind
  • It exposes the maximum amount of sail area to the wind to make the sail the most effective

Depending on the wind velocity, the objectives of trimming a sail will vary:

  • In light wind, the main objective is to ensure the wind can easily exhaust from the sails so that more wind can come in, so the sails will be open
  • In medium breeze the objective is to use all the wind available, to make sails as powerful as possible
  • When there is too much wind, the objective is to depower the boat

The jib halyard tension affects the draft position, the jib sheet controls the sail’s angle to the boat centreline, the jib car affects the twist of the sail and the tension of the forestay affects the shape of the jib.

  • The jib car controls the sail twist in the upper portion and the sail draft position in the lower portion of the sail. The jib car can be positioned by watching which portion of the sail begins to luff first. Luffing in the upper portion of the jib means that the jib car should be moved forward, whilst luffing in the lower portion of the jib means that the jib car should be moved aft.
  • As the wind increases, the car should be moved aft to flatten the foot and depower the top of the jib and in light wind condition or in choppier water, the car should be further forward.
  • If the top windward telltales (inside) are lifting whilst the bottom ones are flowing horizontally, there is too much twist at the top of the sail, so move the jib car forward to increase the downward pressure on the leech. If the top leeward telltales (outside) are lifting, it indicates the leech is too tight and there is too little twist, so ease the car aft slightly to open the leech.

The mainsail trim involves a few adjustments, including adjusting the twist using the mainsheet and vang tension, adjusting the sail depth using the mast bend and the outhaul, adjusting the draft position using the main halyard, and finally adjusting the helm balance using the traveller position.

Spinnaker Handling: There are two types of spinnakers, the ‘asymmetric’ spinnaker (fixed at the bow and operates more like a large jib, generating lift from the side) and the ‘symmetrical’ spinnaker, which is supported by a pole and is flown ahead of the forestay, pulling the yacht. 

  • The sheet trims the sail, the brace adjusts the pole angle and the tweaker provides another adjustment to the spinnaker shape. The spinnaker is sheeted by easing the sheet until the luff just curls and then sheeting in until there is no curl. Using the brace, adjust the pole so that it is at right angles to the wind. The brace is adjusted  less often than the sheet, except on sport boats or in heavy winds.
  • When sailing downwind, the rig can be eased forward to allow more fullness of the sails. Release the backstay, vang and main outhaul, ease the jib and main halyard slightly, and release the main sheet fully.

We prepare you to sail in no time!

* For beginners, PrepSail recommends the eLearning course 1 ‘Sailing principles’ and course 2 ‘First sailing experience’.

* For semi-experienced sailors, PrepSail recommends course 3 ‘Understanding the points of sail’ and course 4  ‘Fundamental trimming techniques’.

* For advanced sailors, PrepSail recommends course 5 ‘Spinnaker essentials’ and course 6 ‘Crew roles and team work’.

To gain more sailing competencies, you can also buy an online course pack and become a PRO  fast !

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Start Sailing’ pack of 2 courses

Become familiar with some important sailing terms, which can provide a ground base for your learning and a helpful overview of sailing basics. Learn how to prepare a boat before going sailing and learn the primary sailing manoeuvres.


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