Tickety Tacking

Tickety Tacking

Learn to Sail with Norton Yachts

Tacking a Sailboat


Sometimes the wind just doesn’t want to take you where you want to go. When you want reach a destination upwind, you have to sail in a zig-zag course. In order to get this back and forth going, you have to learn to tack.

Like most activities on a sailboat, tacking requires a well-informed crew. Tacking the boat also requires a lot of momentum to make sure you get through the no-sail zone and don’t get stuck in irons. To successfully execute this maneuver, you must go into it at full speed and keep turning steadily throughout the tack. Ensure that the boat is sailing on a close-hauled course and that Tickety Tacking | Tacking a sailboat!you trim both sails.


  1. The helmsman scans all around for any obstructions or other vessels that could get in the way. When he is sure that they have the room to tack, he gives the command “Prepare to Tack!
  2. Each crew member takes position at each jibsheet and ensures that the tails are clear and free to run
  3. The crew on the working jibsheet prepares to release it.
  4. The crew on the lazy sheet for the current tack pulls any slack and puts one to three wraps around the winch.
  5. When the crew lets the helmsman know they are ready, he returns to them with the command, “Tacking!” He then pushes the wheel to leeward to initiate the turn.
  6. Watch the jib during the tack. As you turn into the no-sail zone the jib will luff until it is completely flapping before it fills with wind on the opposite side. When it begins luffing, the load will lessen, and then the crew will release all of it very quickly and the opposite side takes up all the slack very quickly. The original working sheet now becomes the lazy sheet.
  7. Now that the boat has moved across to the new windward side, the helmsman centers the wheel to halt the turn.
  8. Trim the new working sheet for the new course. The mainsail will more than likely not need any trim adjusted.
  9. The crew then coils their sheets, and the helmsman focuses on gaining back speed that was lost during the turn.


Tacking requires communication, focus, and coordination from all crew members. The most important thing when sailing is safety. Remember to always have an informed crew that communicates well with each other.

Norton Yachts suggest that you only attempt sailing when you have had a proper education. Safe boating requires knowledge of the fundamentals. When you receive ASA certification, you are one step closer to keeping yourself and others out of harm’s way. Always practice safe boating!