Learning the basics of sailing is now much easier and more convenient with SunRise Sail being just a short drive from the Atlanta area. Our facility and instructors are certified by the American Sailing Association so that we can offer both beginner and advanced sailing lessons. If you are interested in learning to sail, this blog contains a few terms for you to be familiar with before you set out on your first lesson.
Using The Sheet
One of the first things our instructors will teach you is how to use the “sheet” to trim (adjust) the sail. The sheet is the rope (line) that pulls the sail in closer to the boat, or lets it out. The sheet that controls the mainsail is the mainsheet, the one tied to the jib, the jibsheet, etc. Adjusting the sheet correctly is 90% of sail trim, and you can spend your whole sailing life just tightening and easing the sheet. Technically, all ropes on a sailboat are called lines, except for a bolt rope in a sail, or the bell rope on a ship’s bell.
Proper Sail Trim Techniques
But there’s really a lot more to sail trim than just the sheet—there’s halyard tension (the halyard is the line, or sometimes wire, that hoists the sail), outhaul tension (the outhaul tightens the mainsail along its “foot,” or bottom, where it’s attached to the boom), traveler adjustment (the traveler is a track across the boat with a moveable slide on it that holds one end of the mainsheet), boom vang tension (the boom vang pulls the boom down to flatten the sail), and so on. Many boats have provisions for bending the mast while sailing to adjust the mainsail even further.
Adjusting to the Wind
Each of these adjustments changes the shape of the sail, not its in-or-out position. On some points of sail—when beating (i.e. when the boat is sailing as much into the wind as it can), for example—it’s better to have the sail very flat, with little “draft,” or curvature; tightening the halyard, outhaul and vang will do this. Sometimes it’s better if the top of the sail twists relative to the bottom, to spill wind (or allow wind to escape from the sail) on a blustery day; do this by pulling the traveler in and easing the sheet to let the boom lift in hard puffs of wind. But on a calm day, the sail should have a little twist, which means increasing sheet tension and adjusting in-or-out position with the traveler.
And that’s just the mainsail! We haven’t even started on the jib yet, nor set the spinnaker for downwind-sailing excitement. Sailing is a wonderfully exciting adventure that you can enjoy for the rest of your life. Those who truly love to sail are continuously learning more and more about their favorite pastime. If you would like to learn to sail or brush up on your skills, call on SunRise Sail today! 770-271-7444