List of Sailing Skills

List of Sailing SkillsOriginally a primary transportation method and way to explore the world, sailing is now a popular pastime and sport. Sailing is currently ranked as the 17th fastest growing sport in the United States. It is estimated that over four million Americans take part in recreational sailing. Here are some techniques and skills that are essential to this pastime.

Sailing Skills

  • Sail setting
  • Positioning the centerboard
  • Tacking
  • Balancing the boat
  • Achieving fore and aft trim

Sail setting

Knowing how to set a boat's sails according to the direction of the wind is crucial out on the water. Sailboats cannot be taken directly into the wind because there is a chance the boat's sails won't catch the wind and the boat will come to a stop. As such, it is important for sailors to pay attention to their point of sail, which is the direction of their boat in relation to the direction of the wind. The settings of the sails should be adjusted based on the point of sail.

Positioning the centerboard

The centerboard is an adjustable fin under the hull usually made of either wood, fiberglass, or metal. Moving the centerboard in relation to the point of sail allows sailors to correct drift and maintain their course. Much like sail setting, properly positioning the centerboard requires sailors to pay close attention to the direction of the wind.


Sailors can't always take a straight course to get from point A to point B, especially if that course takes them directly into the wind. Because of this, sailors must plan a course that takes them to their destination in the shortest amount of time. This often involves a technique called tacking, in which the boat is sailed in a zigzag, upwind direction.

Balancing the boat

To stay on course and make sure that their boat stays balanced, sailors must pay attention to the strength of the wind and what direction it is blowing. Heeling occurs when the boat leans to one side or the other. To avoid heeling, sailors should be conscious of the weight they have on board the boat and how it is distributed. For instance, if the boat is leaning to the port side (left) because of strong gusts of wind, the boat can be balanced by shifting weight to the boat's starboard side (right).

Achieving fore and aft trim

Fore and aft refers to the length of a sailboat from front to back, while trim describes a boat's floating position in length direction. To achieve proper fore and aft trim, sailors must ensure that their boat stays balanced from end to end. The bow, which is the front of the boat, should be raised slightly higher than the back of the boat, which is called the stern. If the back of the boat is too low, the boat will drag in the water and move slowly. This can be counteracted by distributing weight closer to the middle or front of the boat. In the same manner, if the bow is too low in the water the sailor should move towards the stern to correctly balance the onboard weight.