The Sailing Five Essentials

sailing 5 essentials

TheYachtMarket brings you the five essentials points when sailing. When sailing you should always check that all five are adjusted to your sailing direction.

Boat balance

If a yacht is allowed to heel away from the wind, it will tend to turn into the wind or luff up. If the boat is allowed to heel towards the wind, it will tend to turn downwind or bear away. In either ease some rudder movement will be needed to keep it on course, which will slow the boat down. Turn the boat using the wheel to the desired course to steer. This may be a definite bearing or towards a landmark, or at a desired angle to the apparent wind direction.

Trim fore and aft

The distribution of crew weight fore and aft is just as important as balancing the boat. The best way to learn the techniques is to practice them, but the idea of shifting your weight towards the wind will help. In other words, that means moving forward in the boat when sailing to windward and moving aft when sailing downwind. The aim is to adjust the position of the crew forwards or backwards to achieve an 'even keel'. On an upwind course in a small boat, the crew typically sit forward, when 'running' it is more efficient for the crew to sit to the rear of the boat. The position of the crew matters less as the size (and weight) of the boat increases.

Sail setting

A sail should be pulled in until it fills with wind, but no further than the point where the front edge of the sail (the luff) is exactly in line with the wind. As a guide, you will find that any sail, whether jib, mainsail or spinnaker, will set best by letting out until it starts to flap gently along the leading edge, then pulled in just enough to stop that flapping.


As well as driving a yacht forward, the action of the wind on the sails will push it sideways across the water - this is known as making leeway. To prevent this, the yacht needs more grip on the water, which is provided by a centreboard daggerboard or keel. The difference is simple. A centreboard pivots around a bolt in its case; a daggerboard is moved vertically up and down In some older yachts you might find a metal board, referred to as a centreplate, all three do the same job. If a moveable centreboard is fitted, then it should be lowered when sailing "close to the wind" but can be raised up on downwind courses to reduce drag. The centreboard prevents lateral motion and allows the boat to sail upwind. A boat with no centreboard will instead have a permanent keel, some other form of underwater foil, or even the hull itself which serves the same purpose.

Course made good

This is exactly what it sounds like - the shortest, or quickest, distance between two points. Sailing an off-wind course in a steady breeze on a deep, current-free inland waterway, the course made good will simply be a straight line from start to finish. In all other conditions you need to decide on the best way of getting from A to B.

Together, these points are known as 'The Five Essentials'.

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