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The Manoeuvres

Going About

This is the expression used when one changes course by passing through the wind.
The manoeuvre can be considered correctly executed if it is done with a minimum of loss of speed. If it is badly done, one runs the risk of not passing through the wind and getting caught ‘in stays’, or ‘in irons’, i.e. with the boat stopped and the wind dead ahead. It may then be necessary to repeat the manoeuvre, which is not always possible, for instance near an obstacle or in a crowded port. There is also the risk of capsizing in a high wind, if the crew does not keep the boat balanced.

Sequence of actions

  • So as not to lose speed, trim in the sails as the boat comes closer to wind. (A)
  • The helmsman calls ‘ready (to go) about’. The crew clears the sheets, sees that nothing is obstructing them and answers ‘Ready’.
  • The helmsman firmly puts down the helm, i.e. pushes the tiller away from the wind, and says ‘Lee-O’. As the boat luffs up and straightens, the crew shifts towards the middle of the boat, so as to keep it balanced. (B)
  • The boat comes head to wind, and as soon as the jib spills – and not before! - the sheet so far hauled in tight is released. (C)
  • The boat passes through the wind and the boom moves across to the other side. The main sail should be eased out a bit; the jib is then hauled in (but not too quickly) and set out for the new tack. The crew sits a bit towards the new (windward) side. (D)
  • Bear away slightly more; haul in the main sail, the crew sits out to windward to balance the boat (E). Follow the newly chosen course and set the sails accordingly.

During B, C and D, the boat is not being driven forward; speed is lost. The boat should have gained enough speed beforehand to carry through this manoeuvre.

If the crew does not take care to keep the beat balanced by changing position, there is danger of capsizing. The crew should constantly seek to balance the boat.

When you miss going about (getting into ‘stays’)

This can sometimes be remedied in the following manner: when one is almost dead into wind, quickly set the jib ‘aback’ in its original position on the weather side. As soon as one is off the wind, bring the tiller to windward, haul the jib on the new tack, and then haul in the main sheet.


For successfully going about one must:

  • gain speed by trimming in the sheets with boat close hauled;
  • push the tiller firmly to leeward;
  • wait to slacken off the jib sheet until the jib sail spills;
  • bear off a little on the new tack by easing out the main sheet.

The beginner may be somewhat confused by the drastic change of course. It is important to try to foresee the course to be taken after going about, in relation to the wind and the shore.

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