Learn to Sail: What are the Points of Sail?

If you want to learn to sail, a good place to begin is understanding the points of sail. Also known as “sail positions”, this refers to a sailboat’s heading angle in relation to wind direction. Here, we examine what they are. 

Firstly, you should never sail directly against the wind, and this angle is known as a “no-sail zone”. When sailing directly against the wind, the boat will slow down and eventually stop altogether.

The three main categories of sailing angle are classified as Close Hauled, Reaching and Running.  Each one is different and serves a different purpose.

On the way out of the Gustavia harbour

Close Hauled

In this angle, wind is coming from the forward direction. It is close to the no-sail zone, and approximately at a 45 degree angle to the wind.  This can be useful if the wind is strong and you want to take better control of the boat. Otherwise, it’s not very efficient.


When in this position, the boat is more or less perpendicular to the wind. When reaching, the most important object is sail trim and holding your course. For most modern sailboats, this is the fastest way to sail.

MaxSea Training Sessions in Barcelona


The boat is “running” when the wind is coming directly from behind, across the stern of the boat. Steering can be difficult when running because there is less pressure on the tiller to provide feedback to the helmsman, and the boat is less stable, meaning the boat may go off course more easily than on other points of sail.

learn to sail

Image source: www.dummies.com


If you wish to learn more about the points of sail, there are plenty of online resources. Have a look at this website for more details.

MaxSea also offers a range of support and training services to give you tips on sailing with MaxSea software, from a one-hour remote training to a full two-day live training session in Barcelona, Spain. Read about all the types of training available here.

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