Started Sailing

Position of the Wind

by Laura

I'm writing a novel and it includes sailing (which I have no idea about). It's set in kind of seventeenth century England and I was wondering how sailors would react to the wind coming from different angles? For instance what would you do with a north west wind assuming your sailing north? It's kind of hard to explain. . . please help :)


Comments for Position of the Wind

Click here to add your own comments

Jan 23, 2011
Not Sure About 17th Century
by: Alex Dotsch


I was considering answering this question, but then I realised you were asking with relation to the 17th century and decided it was something that Han, would be better placed to answer.

However in general, any shift in the wind would result in either the ship heading up (turning closer towards the wind direction), bearing away (turning away from the wind direction) or trimming the sails. The first two would occur on a beat or close haul, while the latter would occur on a reach.

Find out more about points of sail at:

However, I do not believe that 17th century ships could beat... Han?

Best Regards,
Alex Dotsch

Jan 24, 2011
Points of sail on a square-rigger.
by: Han

Hi Laura and Alex,

The question has been correctly answered by Alex, but to make it fully clear: sailing close-hauled with a square-rigger is impossible, which means the closest up-wind course is at best, also depending on the swell, a close reach. When, as in your example, the wind is north-west, the best course is a bit north of north-east; modern clippers in the 19th century could sail higher but as your ship sails in the 17th century they were not yet that far advanced.

Regards, Han.

Feb 17, 2011
Wait for favorable wind
by: Kit

In a modern sail boat you would just head north more or less. However seventeenth century sailing craft could not point as well so you would either head north east for the time being expecting the wind to become more favourable. Or you would drop anchor and wait for the wind to change. You would also wait for the tide to be favourable. Tide speed and direction in slow sailing ships is as important as wind.

Feb 17, 2011
Presumed slow?
by: Han

Hi Kit,

It seems you presume the speed of 17th century ships was slow. Please explain your research...



Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to History of Sailboats.

Random Tip of the Day:

Find Started Sailing on Facebook
Follow Started Sailing on Twitter

Smooth Sailing
Sailing Games
Sailing Photos

Privacy Policy | Disclaimer
Copyright EMAR Publishers © 2009-2011