How to sail

If you are a beginner, deactivate (uncheck) all opponents so they do not distract you, select a simple track (e.g. "Forth and Back"), light breeze and a steady wind direction and speed.

You will have a desired direction where you would like to go, or a target to reach. The art of race sailing consists in reaching the target quickly and safely. The way it is achieved depends on the knowledge and experience of sailors. Top Sailor gives you the opportunity to take the sailing simulator with you and practice sailing basics on your mobile device.

When you sail, there are periods of time when not much happens, and there are moments when decisions need to be made very quickly. Experience and practice are more than useful when fast action is required. For a start, the auto-adjust sail mode may be helpful: activate the "show wind" feature and watch the sail being automatically adjusted while you turn.

Movement of your yacht is a result of wind exerting force on your sail, so you have to coordinate a few things: direction of movement, the size (area) of your sail, and its relative angle to the direction of wind. Note that when your boat is moving, the wind you feel on the boat is not the "absolute" constant wind, but rather a relative (apparent) wind that depends on the speed and direction of the boat. If you sail in the same direction as the wind blows (i.e. downwind), the faster you go, the slower the apparent wind that propels your boat.

True (absolute) wind indicator Apparent wind indicator (telltale) attached at the front of the boat.
See how it changes length and direction.

Going downwind is pretty obvious: you let the wind "push" sails and your boat. Your boat has a keel which is a large surface at the bottom of the hull. The keel does not allow the boat to move sideways, even if the wind pushes it sideways. So the sideways component of the wind force is cancelled, the forward component affects the boat and you can use the rudder to steer the boat as you wish. When going downwind, you can't go faster than the wind.

What if you want to go upwind? You can't go directly upwind: your sail will be flapping and the boat will be "in irons". However, you can "tack": sail close to the wind in a zig-zag course, changing direction periodically. When going close or perpendicular to the wind, you can go faster than the wind, because the apparent wind force does not drop when your boat accelerates. Going upwind actually increases the apparent wind which in turn increases boat speed until the boat can't go faster because of the water drag.

Additionally, there is the lift force that is the result of the curved suface of the sail (an airfoil or a wing). In appropriate conditions, this causes the difference in air pressures on both sides of the sail which drives ("sucks") your boat forward.

Knowing all this and considering weather conditions during a race, a sailor decides in what direction they should go and how to trim sails to win. A general advice is to maximize the forward component of the wind force to gain maximum speed. Experiment using the Top Sailor simulator and see how different positions of sail, hull and wind direction influence speed of your yacht. Note that the shortest route is rarely the fastest route, so the art of race sailing is not just technical ability, but also planning, strategy and tactics.


You can see the apparent wind magic not only by watching the telltale, but also by activating the "show wind" feature.

Sailing downwind (running).
The faster you go, the slower the apparent wind.
Sailing upwind (close-hauled/beating) and tacking.
Note how the apparent wind changes direction.

When the wind is strong, watch the rear view of your boat and when it tilts (heels) too much, reduce (reef) the sail.

Keep your boat under control and try to anticipate what may happen: don't let events and opponents surprise you.

To improve your score, always play against the strongest opponent you can defeat (try the 'Suggest' feature). For example, if you sometimes win against Kate and you can't defeat Steve, select Kate and Steve as your opponents, and remember to include Mark (or Alice) to have at least one opponent you always beat. Without them, you risk being the last in the race ranking which would decrease your score a lot. Sail on all built-in tracks. Good luck and fair winds!

Click here to learn more about sailing. Read about sailing basics here.