How to sail a yacht on a tailwind: tips and tricks for beginners and advanced sailors

How to sail a yacht on a tailwind: tips and tricks for beginners and advanced sailors

We're here to guide you through the fundamentals of proper yacht handling and sail trimming techniques.

Sailing on a yacht is one of the most amazing experiences you can have on the water. And if you're lucky enough to have a tailwind (also known as a stern wind or aft wind), you'll enjoy comfort and speed. But how can you make the most of this opportunity? The team at are here to share their essential tips for an unforgettable experience at sea.

Use the power of the wind to your advantage

Sailing the seas means facing an array of conditions, from gentle breezes and clear skies to challenging weather that tests your skill, knowledge, and courage. However, mastering a few fundamental lessons can significantly simplify your sailing experience.

1. The ideal combination of sails

Selecting the appropriate sails is crucial when sailing in a tailwind. The aim is to make the most efficient use of the sails’ power: maximizing it in lighter winds and reducing it in stronger conditions. Generally, a gennaker or spinnaker is ideal for tailwinds. The jib or gennaker is furled to keep it from losing power, and the mainsail is hauled up to prevent the boat from heeling unnecessarily. However, in rough weather where these sails may be overwhelming, the 'wing-on-wing' technique is a viable alternative. This involves setting the mainsail on one side of the yacht (either port or starboard) and the jib or gennaker on the opposite side, both loosely. This configuration is effective only when sailing directly downwind, as it ensures the sails do not inadvertently unfurl.

Halza for tailwind


YACHTING.COM TIP: An accidental jibe refers to a dangerous situation where a sailboat is turned downwind (into the wind), which can have serious consequences for sails and sailing equipment. During this, the jib flies over the middle of the boat quickly and with great force, increasing the risk of damage to sails, spars, boom and mast.

In situations like this, it's crucial for the crew to be well-prepared and knowledgeable about safe reactions. Effective communication and coordination are key in minimizing risks to both the crew and the equipment onboard. Adhering to proper safety procedures, especially when changing directions, is instrumental in avoiding hazardous scenarios.

Experienced sailors emphasize the importance of crew training and understanding seamanship procedures. This knowledge is essential to quickly and effectively respond to challenging situations, thereby minimizing the risk of damage to the boat and injury to crew members. Even skilled sailors must remain vigilant, as unexpected jib movements can lead to serious incidents, including being swept off the deck.

2. Setting the sails for optimum performance

Proper sail setting is not just about positioning them correctly, but also optimizing them for the best performance. This involves adjusting the sails to the ideal angle relative to the wind and fine-tuning their power. Such adjustments help you achieve the highest speed and stability for your yacht.

Tailwind sailing is generally comfortable, but vigilance is key. Be prepared to adapt to sudden wind changes. Strong gusts, as well as areas with little or no wind, can impact your yacht's stability and speed. Utilizing your yacht’s navigation aids and staying updated with weather forecasts can aid in charting a course that reduces the risks associated with unpredictable weather.

3. Safety precautions

Safety is paramount when sailing. Always ensure you have sufficient life jackets on board, stay alert to weather conditions, and be ready for any changes. Equipping your yacht with essential navigational tools like charts, GPS, and radio communications is also vital for a secure sailing experience.

Correct trim on tailwind

When sailing, two key terms to understand are "true wind" and "apparent wind." True wind refers to the wind's natural direction, while apparent wind is a combination of the real wind and the yacht's movement. In tailwind conditions, the real wind typically comes from an angle of 150° to 180° downwind, whereas the apparent wind angle ranges from 135° to 180°.

Unlike sailing upwind or crosswind, where buoyancy and vacuum principles play a role, sailing with a tailwind is more straightforward – the wind propels the yacht forward. For those new to sailing or seeking to enhance their skills, further reading on sail trim is recommended. An important consideration in tailwind sailing is ensuring the sails work harmoniously without obstructing each other's wind.

YACHTING.COM TIP: There are a variety of winds at sea, and some of them are relatively predictable, which can come in handy when planning your sailing route. Discover the 7 most common winds in the Mediterranean

Sailing on a tailwind

Sailing with Genacre

More experienced sailors can explore adjusting the sail's depth, often referred to as the 'belly of the sail.' Utilizing the backstay, forestay, and cunningham allows for fine-tuning — flattening the sail in stronger winds to reduce its area, and loosening it in lighter winds to increase its curvature and catch more wind. Additionally, mastering using the boom vang, which involves adjusting the tension of the boom and the bottom of the mast, is essential for effective sail shape control.

YACHTING.COM TIP: The boom vang, a system of pulleys and ropes, connects the boom to the mast's base. Tightening the vang flattens the mainsail for less power in strong winds, while loosening it allows the sail to 'belly' out, capturing more wind in lighter conditions. Effective use of the boom vang requires skill in adjusting sail shape to suit varying wind conditions. Check out our guide for advanced sail trimming techniques. 

Last but not least, don't forget to savour the voyage itself. As you glide smoothly and swiftly on a tailwind in your chosen chartered yacht, relish the moments of peace, the stunning seascape, and the feel of the wind. Sailing with a tailwind offers a blend of exhilaration and relaxation.

Embarking on a tailwind journey is a fantastic adventure for any sailing enthusiast. Adhering to proper techniques and safety measures ensures not only a smooth experience but also an unforgettable one. So set sail, hit the open sea and delight in the magic of tailwind sailing.

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