points of sailing

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The headings of a sailing vessel in relation to the wind. When a vessel is sailing as near to the wind as it can, it is said to be close hauled, i.e. with its sails sheeted (hardened) well in and just full of wind without any shivers in the sails. Modern racing yachts can sail close hauled about 3½ points (39°) off the wind, a cruising yacht about 4 points (45°), a gaff-rigged vessel about 4¾ points (50°–55°), and a square-rigged one about 6 points (70°).

When a vessel's desired course takes it further off the wind, it is said to be sailing free, i.e. it can begin to free its sheets to present a squarer aspect of its sails to the wind. When the wind is within the angle of about two points (22°) before the beam and four points (45°) abaft the beam, a vessel is said to reach across the wind, and in many cases this is its fastest point of sailing, particularly when the wind is blowing from abaft the beam. On this point of sailing its sheets are eased well away so that that angle of the main boom is at a little less than a right angle to the direction of the wind.

When the wind is blowing within the angle of 4 points (45°) either side of the stern, a vessel is said to be running with the wind, and has its sheets eased right away to allow the boom to take up the broadest possible angle to the wind direction.

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Points of sailing

Subjects: Maritime History.

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