Spice Thames Valley & Solent News Feed

Sailing: A Beginners Guide

Mar 01, 2017

Tips For First Time Sailors

If you’re going sailing for the first time, it can be a bit daunting. You should try to choose calm, uncrowded waters that give to the room to make mistakes without causing chaos, and an instructor you can understand and who you work well with. They will often get you to start on a small boat while you learn the basics, preferably only rigged with one small sail. They will be able to tell you all about the tide, wind and weather conditions in your chosen area, and teach you how to research these things for yourself. You will start out learning sail control and getting familiar with how to handle the sail. It is also recommended that you capsize on purpose at least once, so that you know how to react and what to do if it happens for real. You will also be taught to respect the boom and understand that it can knock you out with one swing if you’re not careful, so you need to pay attention to it. And finally, learn the basic sailing terms you will need and practice, practice practice!


Sailing Terms

Before you get into a boat and start sailing, you need to be familiar with all the terms your captain or teacher will be shouting at you on the water. We’ve pulled together 10 of the basic sailing terms you need to know:


Aft – The aft is the back of a ship or boat. If something it located aft, it’s at the back. This is also known as the ‘stern’.


Bow – The front of the ship. Knowing this is important, as it helps you identify the other two most common sailing terms: port and starboard.


Port – Port is always the left-hand side of the boat when you’re facing the bow. Because ‘left’ and ‘right’ can become confusing even when you aren’t on the water, sailors will use ‘port’ to mean the left-hand side of the boat when you are facing the bow.


Starboard – The opposite of port – starboard is always the right-hand side of the boat when facing the bow.


Leeward – Also known as ‘lee’, leeward is the direction opposite to the way the wind is currently blowing.


Windward – The opposite of leeward, windward is the direction the wind is currently blowing. Sailboats tend to move with the wind, so windward is an important term to know.


Boom – The Boom is the horizontal pole that extends from the bottom of the mast. Adjusting the boom toward the direction of the wind is how the boat harnesses wind power to move forwards and backwards.


Rudder – The rudder is a flat piece of wood, fibreglass or metal that is used to steer the ship. It’s located beneath the boat, and smaller sailboats will have a steering mechanism for it aft, with larger boating having a mechanism on the wheel.


Sheet – The sheet is a line made of robe, cable or chain that is used to control the movable corners (also known as clews) of the sail.


Tacking – Tacking is a basic sailing manoeuvre in which you turn the bow of the boat through the wind so that the wind changes from one side of the boat to the other. The boom of the boat will always shift from one side of to the other when tacking. 


Jibbing – Jibbing is essentially the opposite of tacking. To jibb, you turn the stern of the boat so that the wind changes from one side to the other. The boom will always shift when doing this. Jibbing is a less common technique than tacking, as it involved turning a boat directly into the wind.


If our blog has whetted your appetite and sparked a yearning to get out on the waves, you’re in luck! We’re running loads of sailing based activities this year everywhere from Cambridge and the Solent to Malta’s calm blue waters. To find a session that works for you, click here and book on! We can’t wait to see you there to get your sailing whites on. 

Sailing with Spice

One of our favourite things to do as Spicers is to get outside and experience the sun and the sea. That’s why every year we run loads of Watersports, sailing and travel based activities. A lot of our summer activities will involve sailing – a fantastic way to enjoy the rhythms of the ocean in an intimate way. But if you’ve never sailed before, it can be a bit daunting. So today we have a few tips for your first time sailing, and some terms you really need to know.


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