Tacking and Jibing


A sailboat cannot go directly into the wind. There is no push/pull and the sail flaps uselessly (check out How a Sail Works).

It is common knowledge that wherever you want to go, the wind will be directly on the nose. Since you can’t sail with the wind on the nose, you have to tack.

Tacking is changing direction when sailing into the wind, the process of tacking to your destination is (appropriately) called ‘beating’. Tacking swings the boat’s bow 90 degrees through the wind.

You are on a starboard tack if the wind is coming over your starboard side, a port tack if the wind is on the port side.

Skipper: “Ready About”.

Crew: “Ready”

Skipper: “Hard A’lee”.

Skipper turns the tiller or wheel. The boat comes about (turns through the wind). The skipper then ‘bears off’ or ‘falls off’ (turns off the wind to build up speed).


Jibing is tacking when sailing downwind, the stern swings through the wind. Unlike tacking which is a smooth controlled exercise, jibing is quick and ‘spirited’.

Skipper: “Prepare to jibe”.

Crew: “Ready”

Skipper: “Jibe ho”.

Skipper turns the tiller or wheel. The crew ducks.

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