The direction of a sailboat with respect to the wind.
(Not to be confused with point of sale.)
In the following diagram, imagine the boat to be at the center
of a circle, with the wind coming from 0 degrees. (In other
words, if the boat is pointing into the wind, we'll say its
direction is 0 degrees; if it's pointing directly away, its
direction is 180 degrees. And yes, it's symmetric, so don't ask about degrees between 180 and 360.)
\ in /
close \ stays /
reach \ /
beam \ /
We can define the points of sail as:
- < 45 degrees
- in stays, or in irons. Unsailable.
- 45 degrees
- close hauled or beating. The most you can point
into the wind. Usually somewhere between 35 and 45 degrees
in modern sailboats but may be slightly more or less.
- 45-90 degrees
- close reach.
- 90 degrees
- beam reach. The fastest point of sail.
- 90-180 degrees
- broad reach.
- 180 degrees
- dead run, or running before the wind. This is
where you pull out the spinnaker or run wing
using a whisker pole.
All numbers are approximate, of course. If you're sailing at 89 degrees, it's appropriate to say you're on a beam reach.