On the strength of the wind in sailing
Denis Korablev
  • 02.10.2020
  • 259

On the strength of the wind in sailing

Wind in sailing yachting is the main factor considered by all boaters. Knowing the nature of the wind, the parameters of its occurrence and the effect on the weather gives the ability to determine the course, choose convenient stops, plan transitions and choose tactics when participating in regattas.

For a long time sailors have said that it is not a storm that is more terrible for a ship in the sea, but complete calm. Despite the fact that today even sailing ships are equipped with propulsion systems to get to the point of departure, without the wind any competition loses its original meaning, and the emotional satisfaction from the cruise is lost. Let's consider what the wind is from the point of view of science and what are its features.

Wind is the horizontal transfer of air masses of considerable volume with approximately uniform moisture saturation and temperature. From areas of higher pressure air is always carried to areas of lower pressure. Considering weather conditions, wind parameters may change, so it is very important to familiarize yourself with the weather forecast before sailing.

Air currents blowing steadily in one direction throughout the year are called monsoons and trade winds. Trade winds are common near the equator, and monsoons - in tropical zones of East and Southeast Asia, depending on the season (summer or winter), the monsoons change direction to the exact opposite.

In the Adriatic, the Black Sea and other regions, a cold wind called "Bora" is formed in winter - it blows in the direction from the north and sometimes lasts for many days or even weeks in a row, creating strong waves. In the Mediterranean region, the cold southerly wind carries the sonorous Italian name "Sirocco". One of the more well-known types of wind that most of us are familiar with is breeze. The breeze begins to blow in the daytime from the water surface to the land, bringing a refreshing coolness, and at night it changes direction to the opposite.

Sailing weather

A weather forecast is necessary for every yachtsman to take into account the weather conditions on long sea voyages, which vary depending on the geographic location and the period of the year. Wind characteristics affect the formation of weather in a particular region. With knowledge of the basic rules of the wind and constant observation of the changing situation, it is easier to steer the boat and tune the sails.

You need to know that the wind usually reaches its maximum speed by lunchtime, and by nightfall it dies down - otherwise the weather may deteriorate. As experienced sailors 2yachts note, with sharp gusts of wind it is highly likely to predict it gain, and if the wind gains strength after rain, a squall can suddenly fly in. When the wind suddenly dies down during a storm, you should expect a change in direction.

The concept of wind strength is very vague, because even experienced skippers can determine the strength of the wind only up to 7 points on the 12-point Beaufort scale, since few people have met the wind of greater intensity. Many boaters overestimate wind power, mistaking gusts for constant airflow. Sharp gusts are very noticeable for the yachtsman, since they increase the roll angle of the yacht, and also test the strength of the sailing and rigging of the vessel.

A gust of wind with a speed of 60 knots or more can overturn a vessel or damage the masts, therefore strong gusty winds are much more dangerous for sea travelers than even stormy ones with a steady power. Hurricane winds often appear unevenly, and the strongest are often formed only in selected areas. So, during the same storm, a yacht located at a distance of only a few tens of kilometers from another vessel may not be affected by a squally stormy wind.

Yachtsmen tend to exaggerate the size of the waves, since for comparison the height of the mast is taken in relation to the height of the prevailing waves. Oceanographers also assert that reliable determination of wave parameters only by eye is excluded.

Wind can be characterized according to the following characteristics:

  • observations at hydrometeorological stations on the shore;
  • impulses;
  • squall and squall wind.

It will take only 1 hour to find the wind strength at the coastal station, but the exact characteristics of the wind flow cannot be obtained this way, since its strength is inevitably extinguished due to the inevitable friction against the earth's surface.

Wind gusts characterize an instant increase in its intensity, which differs from a squall in duration (a squall lasts more than 10 minutes). Since the gusts are insignificant in duration, it makes no sense to find their speed on the Beaufort scale, and just to compare them with a flurry, gusts are converted into wind.

Flurry - this is the name of a one-step increase in the wind speed value lasting from 1 minute. Since it is longer than a gust in duration, one squall sometimes contains more than one gust.

Storm winds of 35-40 knots on the Beaufort scale can be generated for various reasons (the most common being a tornado formation near a cyclone), and storm emergency messages sometimes cannot be accurately predicted.

There is a whole yachting terminology that is associated with the properties and types of wind. The key terms are "leeward" and "windward". Leeward is the side in which the wind blows, upwind - the one from which it blows. One way to determine wind direction is the position of the weather vane attached to the top of the mast. In case of changeable or very weak wind, this method does not work, and then the yachtsman must pay attention to water ripples, trees, flags and jacks on neighboring ships, as well as thin ribbons tied to the sail or shrouds ("sorcerers").

Wind courses

Relative to the wind, the ship's course is determined by the angle formed by the direction of the air flow and a line drawn clearly in the middle along the entire length of the ship. Courses in varying winds can be full and sharp, and the sharper the course, the greater the speed. A full heading can mean winds that are almost at right angles or obtuse angles to the yacht's path.

There are 3 main full courses: gulfwind with a heading angle of wind from 80 to 100 degrees, backstag with a heading angle of wind from 100 to 170 degrees) and fordewind (from the Dutch. Voor de wind), when the wind blows into the stern of the vessel at an angle of over 170 degrees. and you won't be able to achieve high speed. By determining the course, you can skillfully tune the sails to make the most of the wind.


If you are in the so-called "dead zone" (or leventic) and you need to move to a position located on the windward side - tacking is used, moving the heading down-hauled to the wind in a zigzag (variable tack). When changing tack, it is required to make a turn (in two possible ways) - overstag or fordewind. An upwind turn - overtag, is carried out when the bow of the vessel crosses the wind line, when the yacht turns to the head and then switches to another tack, to the required course.

When making a turn, the yacht's stern already crosses the wind line, and the tack is changed with a sharp change of sails, in which the rig and spars of the vessel experience significant dynamic loads.

With the ability to "read the wind" and a knowledge of nautical terminology, you will learn to make the most of the wind, getting the best speed to move through the water.

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