Why a Boat Sails

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How does a boat sail?

Why a Boat Sails

Offshore Sailing School Tip: You've seen sailboats gliding effortlessly across the water. Perhaps you've been drawn into the magic of the sport. Once you learn to sail, the basics will quickly become second nature, and you'll have the confidence to take the helm and captain your own boat before you know it.

The principles of sailing and flying are much the same: aerodynamic lift. This lift comes first from deriving all the centers of effort from all the sails on the boat. To locate the geometric center of each sail, draw a line between all the centers on the boat. The lift, which propels the boat forward, is greatest where the curvature is greatest and the air flow is smooth -- the forward third of the sail. The lift will become reduced where the air flow separates, near the back of the sail.

If you see a close-up picture of racing sailors in action you'll see they are working quite hard with the forces of nature to resist the wind's natural tendency to blow the boat flat and sideways. The forces creating a forward motion are balanced by forces creating drag. Hydrodynamic drag, for example, is drag that's created by the keel – the part of the boat under the water. Other types of drag are caused by waves and friction.

When you decide to learn to sail, make sure that you find a course that goes beyond the basics: boat terminology, the parts of a sailboat and how they operate and other sailing fundamentals. Once you understand why a boat sails, you'll be better qualified to understand the sport and give direction to your crew.



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