What Is the Difference Between Beam Reach and Close Reach?

When it comes to sailing, understanding the various points of sail is essential for navigating effectively and maximizing your boat's performance. Reaching, which refers to sailing at angles other than directly upwind or downwind, can be further divided into three distinct courses: beam reaching, close reaching, and broad reaching. Close reaching, on the other hand, involves sailing closer to close hauled, which means the boat's sails are trimmed tightly and functioning like a wing, relying on lift to propel the craft forward on a course as close to the wind as possible. Lastly, there's broad reaching, where the boat sails further downwind beyond the 90-degree mark, allowing for a more relaxed and leisurely sail. By understanding the differences between these three courses, sailors can better adapt to various wind conditions and make the most of their sailing adventures.

What Is a Close Reach?

A close reach is a sailing term that describes a specific course in relation to the wind. It refers to a course that’s closer to the direction the wind is coming from compared to a beam reach, but not as close as close-hauled. In other words, it’s an angle between a beam reach and close-hauled.

When sailing on a close reach, the sails are trimmed in towards the centerline of the boat, but not as tightly as they’d be on a close-hauled course. This allows the sails to catch the wind at a more favorable angle and generate forward momentum, while still maintaining some maneuverability.

The close reach is considered a versatile and efficient sailing angle. It allows sailboats to make efficient progress upwind, by utilizing the power of the wind to propel the boat forward while also maintaining control and maneuverability. This course is particularly useful for sailing close to the wind when tacking upwind, as it allows the boat to make forward progress without sacrificing too much speed or stability.

To properly sail a close reach, it’s important to adjust the sails to harness the optimum amount of wind power. The sails should be trimmed in gradually, allowing them to fill with wind and generate forward thrust. It’s crucial to maintain a delicate balance between too little and too much tension in the sails, to achieve optimal performance. Fine-tuning the sail trim and adjusting the angle of the boat in relation to the wind can make a significant difference in speed and efficiency when sailing on a close reach.

It provides an effective compromise between sailing close to the wind and maintaining speed and maneuverability.

Beam reaching is a point of sail where the boat is sailing across the wind, neither upwind nor downwind.

Is a Beam Reach Upwind or Downwind?

Is a beam reach upwind or downwind? The answer is neither. It refers to sailing at a right angle to the direction of the wind, with the wind coming from the side of the boat. It’s a position that allows for optimal use of the wind to propel the boat forward.

When sailing upwind, or close-hauled, the boat is sailing directly into the wind or as close to it as possible. The sails are trimmed in tightly and the boat relies on lift to move forward. This is a challenging point of sail that requires careful navigation to maintain a steady course and prevent the boat from being pushed sideways by the wind.

On the other hand, sailing downwind means sailing with the wind at your back. Sailing downwind allows for a smoother ride and typically requires less effort from the crew.

Source: Point of sail – Wikipedia


In conclusion, the difference between beam reach and close reach lies in the angle of the wind in relation to the boat. Finally, on a broad reach, the course extends further downwind beyond the 90-degree mark, allowing for a different set of sailing dynamics.

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