Sails and fixed course

Sails and fixed courseIt is important to remember the difference in principle between (explained here):

(1) steering a yacht close-hauled
(2) sailing off the wind
(3) running before the wind

We are not speaking of heavy seas, now, nor of any peculiar circumstances, but just the first principles of sailing a yacht upon these three points:

1: We are steering by the sails and feel of helm.
2: We are sailing straight by a fixed course.
3: We are sailing by both sails and fixed course.

Thus the beginner must understand when he is steering a yacht before the wind he has two things to remember. His sails and the course. To windward he disregarded the course. He kept his eyes only on the sails. Reaching he kept his eyes only on the course. Running he must keep his eyes on both sails and course. That is the difference in the first principles of steering a yacht on the three points.

Why must the eyes be kept both on sails and course when running ?
We will answer this question in a moment, but we should first explain that when we say the helmsman must keep his eyes only on the course when the yacht is reaching off the wind, we do not mean he can ignore the trim of his sheets. This is also explained in the off the wind sailing section.

If he wants his boat to sail her fastest, or if he is racing, he must constantly trim his sheets. Our meaning is that on a broad reach, or anyhow off the wind, except running, the helmsman has only to keep the boat straight on her course, and no accident or harm will occur if he watches with his eyes his course alone, and does not watch the sails.

It is useful to remember this because the beginner may be sailing in a crowded place amongst boats at a regatta, and if just sailing his yacht "off the wind" he can give all eyes to his course and none to his sails.

Sailing off the wind, but not running, the helmsman, threading his way amongst obstructions, need bother his head about nothing but keeping out of the way of them. The direction of the wind and little variations in it, and the trimming of his sails with great nicety do not matter when merely cruising upon a free reach.

This is not the case in running before the wind, and these observations bring us to answer the question. Read on: Running on the lee.