Wondering what you’re going to learn during your first sailing class, or need a bit of revision? Here’s a quick summary of basic manoeuvres.

To get moving you must be able to manage the sails, making this the first thing you’ll learn on a boat. There’s one thing to remember, no matter what type of craft you're on: rig your sails upwind! First, hoist the mainsail, after which you can raise the Genoa/jib.


Once your boat is rigged, you’re ready to take to the sea! To move upwind (moving forward into the wind) you must tack back and forth, meaning you zigzag your boat right, left, and back again. IMPORTANT: at sea, zigzagging is called weaving!

To carry out tacking you’ll be asked to trim or ease the sails. I tried to find you some mnemonics, but these are just off the top of my head: to’ trim’ hair, you have to pull it tight first, so you trim a sheet by pulling, and when you ‘ease’ you release. Let me know if you come up with better ones, I'm not convinced about these either!

To navigate correctly you must, depending on the wind, trim or ease the sails non-stop to keep them in the best possible positions at all times. Once you begin to sail off the wing, meaning running or broad reaching, it’s time to hoist the spinnaker.

First manoeuvres


Hoisting the spinnaker has 3 steps and2 methods: the “calm sailor’s apprentice" method and the “sea dog" method!

For the calm version, you need to: be sure you have the wind behind you and set up your spinnaker sheets. Then take the boom with one side attached to the mast, and pass one of your sheets on the other (which is called the arm). Now time for the part that’s going to make your life easier: lowering the jib! It’s our tip for beginners and other sailing “tourists", lowering the jib will make you lose speed, but will also let you raise the spinnaker more easily. The last step: pull fast and with all your strength on the spinnaker halyard!

When hoisting the spinnaker according to standard practice, there’s just one difference: to avoid losing speed, you should hoist the spinnaker and lower the jib afterwards! The manoeuvre should be fast, the jib lowered quickly to allow the spinnaker to take the wind. A more challenging method but more efficient during a race.


I maybe forgot one detail in that last paragraph: what is lowering? Lowering the sails simply means bringing them down. You can find a review of sailing terms useful for beginners here:


Last but not least on our manoeuvre list, gybing! Gybing is to “tack" when we've got a tailwind (with or without spinnaker.) Gybing is done in 3 steps, the number one (the person performing the manoeuvre at the bow) has to pass the spinnaker from one tack to the other:

First, you have to detach the boom from the mast and hook it to the free spinnaker sheet. During this step the spinnaker floats unfixed, and you’re the only one managing it.

Next you have to detach the other spinnaker sheet from the boom to reattach the boom to the mast.

Finally, the mainsail must be passed to the correct side, and the person managing the sails will be able to trim the spinnaker.

Since it’s not easy to understand and visualise, you can watch the following video to help and to revise your manoeuvres.

Even if theoretically it's best to know all the steps of different manoeuvres, and that knowing will help once on board, the best way to learn is to practise. The more manoeuvres you perform, the more comfortable you’ll be on board and it will become automatic!


See you at sea?