What Is the Difference Between Tacking and Coming About?

In the world of sailing, mastering the art of maneuvering one's boat becomes essential for any sailor. Among the fundamental techniques, two common turning maneuvers stand out: tacking and coming about. While both these maneuvers involve changing the direction of the boat and shifting the wind from one side to the other, the approach and result differ based on whether the bow or stern of the vessel is rotated through the eye of the wind. Tacking occurs when the bow is turned, directing it through the eye of the wind and causing the wind to shift from one side to the other, resulting in a change in direction for the boat. On the other hand, coming about refers to the process of turning the stern through the eye of the wind, leading to a jibe and a subsequent change in the boat's direction. Understanding the distinction between these two maneuvers is crucial for sailors to effectively navigate the waters and harness the power of the wind for a seamless and efficient sailing experience.

What Is Tack and Come About?

Opposite direction. It’s a fundamental maneuver in sailing, essential for changing direction against the wind. Tacking involves several steps and careful coordination between the helmsman and the crew.

To execute a tack, the helmsman begins by turning the wheel or tiller away from the wind, or by pushing the tiller to leeward. This action causes the boats bow to turn away from the wind and eventually into it. As the bow turns, the sail is released, allowing it to luff, or flap. At this point, the crew quickly moves to the opposite side of the boat, preparing to handle the sail on the new tack.

Tacking requires precise timing and coordination to ensure a smooth maneuver. It’s crucial to avoid an accidental jibe, where the boom swings unnaturally across the boat, potentially causing damage or injury. Jibing is a maneuver used when sailing downwind, where the bow turns away from the wind and the sail changes sides.

Tactics play a significant role in tacking. Sailors often use the maneuver strategically to navigate narrow channels, avoid obstacles, or gain a tactical advantage in a race. By executing multiple well-timed tacks, a sailor can make progress toward their destination, even if it lies directly upwind.

When it comes to tacking, communication is key. Sailors have a few phrases they commonly use to prepare for this maneuver, such as “Ready to tack?” or “Prepare to tack!” However, before executing the tack, it’s crucial for the crew to conduct a thorough 360° visual check around the boat to ensure a safe maneuver. As the crew looks around and gets ready for the tack, they can simply say “Ready!” to indicate their readiness.

What Do You Say When Tacking?

When it comes to tacking, effective communication is paramount to ensure the smooth execution of the maneuver. Sailors often rely on concise yet clear phrases to coordinate their actions seamlessly. One common phrase you might hear is, “Ready to tack?”. This simple question serves as a prompt to alert the crew and ensure their preparedness for the upcoming maneuver.

This phrase conveys a sense of urgency, highlighting the imminent change in direction. By using this prompt, the crew is reminded to focus their attention on the task at hand and make the necessary adjustments to execute the tack successfully.

Alternatively, you might hear the question, “Ready about?”. This phrase seeks confirmation from the crew regarding their readiness and willingness to participate in the tack. It serves as a final check before initiating the maneuver, ensuring the crews complete attention and preparedness.

Another similar phrase is, “Prepare to come about!”. This command signifies the impending change in course, prompting the crew to anticipate the next steps required to execute the tack effectively. By using this phrase, the skipper ensures that everyone is mentally and physically prepared for the upcoming maneuver.

With the crews attention now focused, the final step before executing the tack is for them to look 360° around the boat. This comprehensive visual scan allows the crew to assess their surroundings, ensuring that there are no obstacles or potential hazards in the way.

Simultaneously, while scanning, the crew should also be ready to tack physically. Once they’ve completed their visual check and are ready to participate in the maneuver, they can confidently affirm their preparedness by simply saying, “Ready!”. This concise response indicates to the skipper that the crew is primed and ready to perform the tack, allowing for a smooth and coordinated transition.

Different Types of Tacks: Tacking Can Be Performed in Various Ways Depending on the Wind Conditions, Boat Type, and Crew Experience. Discussing Different Techniques and the Specific Communication Required for Each Type of Tack Can Provide a More Comprehensive Understanding of the Topic.

  • Lee-bow tack: This tack is commonly used when sailing upwind in light to moderate wind conditions. The boat tacks onto a slightly lifted heading to maintain boat speed and minimize the distance traveled. The crew must communicate clearly and in sync to execute a smooth lee-bow tack.
  • Quick tack: The quick tack is a maneuver used in high-performance racing boats to quickly change direction without losing too much speed. The crew must quickly shift their weight and adjust sail trim to maintain boat speed and momentum through the tack.
  • Roll tack: The roll tack is often used in dinghy racing to optimize boat speed and balance. The crew rolls across the boat’s centerline to generate leverage and help the boat round upwind efficiently. Proper weight distribution and timing are crucial in executing a successful roll tack.
  • Crash tack: In emergency situations or strong wind conditions, a crash tack may be necessary. This aggressive maneuver involves a sudden and forceful turn to avoid a collision or capsize. Crew communication and coordination are vital during a crash tack to ensure the safety of the boat and crew.
  • Wave tack: When sailing in rough seas or large waves, wave tacks are employed to minimize the impact of waves on the boat’s speed and stability. Timing the tack to coincide with a wave crest can help the boat maintain forward momentum and prevent it from being slowed down or knocked off course.

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Tacking in windsurfing is a fundamental maneuver that plays a crucial role in maintaining an upwind course throughout your session. Essentially, tacking involves sailing into the wind and smoothly transitioning to the opposite side of the board as the breeze shifts direction. By stepping around the mast at the precise moment, riders are able to maintain control and continue their adventure on new wind angles.

What Is Tacking in Windsurfing?

Tacking is a fundamental technique in windsurfing that allows riders to maintain their upwind course. In simple terms, it involves navigating the sail and board into the wind and crossing over to the opposite side of the board as the bow faces the direction from which the wind is blowing. This movement is executed by stepping around the mast to reach the new side of the board.

It enables them to change direction effectively while minimizing the loss of momentum. By tacking, riders can maintain their desired course and continue making progress towards their destination.

Mastering the art of tacking requires precise timing and coordination. As the board faces the wind, windsurfers need to anticipate the optimal moment to initiate the maneuver. This requires careful observation of the wind direction and the movement of the board in order to time their steps accordingly.

Techniques for Practicing and Improving Tacking Skills in Windsurfing

Tacking is an essential skill in windsurfing that allows the sailor to change direction by turning the board into the wind. There are several techniques that can be used to practice and improve tacking skills. One technique is to start by practicing on flat water with light winds, gradually increasing the difficulty as proficiency improves. Focusing on proper body positioning, foot placement, and hand movements can also help in executing successful tacks. Another technique is to practice in a controlled environment, such as a designated windsurfing area or with the guidance of a windsurfing instructor. Regular practice and repetition are key in honing tacking skills, as it allows for muscle memory and reflexes to develop. By consistently practicing these techniques, windsurfers can enhance their tacking abilities and overall performance on the water.

Source: How To Tack – Starboard Windsurfing


On the other hand, when the stern of the boat is turned through the eye of the wind, it’s known as a jibe. By understanding the distinction between tacking and coming about, sailors can make informed decisions and ensure safer and smoother sailing experiences.

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