Points of sailing

One may sail directly before the wind (run), or one may sail across it: each is a point of sailing. Running dead before the wind, for example, is generally said to be ‘a difficult point of sailing’. Probably the term derives from the way the boat points in relation to the wind, for each point of sailing is in fact a geometrical relationship between the boat and the wind. Truly there are three main points of sailing. The first is Running, when the wind is dead astern or up to about forty-five degrees either side of astern. The second is Reaching, when the wind is on the beam, or a little abaft or ahead of it. The third is Beating, when the wind is coming over either bow, say within an angle of 40-55 degrees to port or starboard. Needless to say, there is no precise angular definition of these expressions, and they are usually qualified by such phrases as, ‘We were running with the wind over the port quarter’; or ‘We should be able to reach to the buoy with the wind just before the beam’.