Tack (sailing)

A tack is nautical term both for the lower, windward corner of a sail and, separately, for the side of a sailing craft from which the wind is coming while under way—the starboard or port tack.

Sail corner

The tack is the corner on a fore-and-aft sail where the luff (the forward edge) and foot (the bottom edge) connect[1] and, on a mainsail, is located near where the boom and mast connect.[1] On a square sail underway, the tack is the windward clew (lower corner) and also the line holding down that corner; when the vessel changes course to have the other vertical edge of the square sail to the wind, the other clew becomes the tack.[2]

Wind direction on sailing vessel

As a point of reference, tack is the alignment of the wind with respect to a sailing craft under way. If the wind is from starboard side of the sailing craft, it is on starboard tack, and if from port, on port tack. The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea for vessels underway declare that when the courses of two sailing vessels converge, the vessel on port tack must give way to a vessel on starboard tack.[3] The maneuver of changing a sailing craft's course from one tack to the other with the wind coming across the bow is called tacking or with the wind coming across the stern is called jibing for fore-and-aft rigged sailing craft or wearing ship for square-rigged vessels.[2]


  1. SAIL Editors. "Know How: Sailing 101". Sail Magazine. Retrieved 4 October 2016.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  2. Goodwin, Peter (2018-01-25). HMS Victory Pocket Manual 1805: Admiral Nelson's Flagship At Trafalgar. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781472834072.
  3. Desoutter, Denny (2012). The Adlard Coles Book of Boatwords. London: A&C Black. p. 210. ISBN 1408126761.


    • Rousmaniere, John, The Annapolis Book of Seamanship, Simon & Schuster, 1999
    • Chapman Book of Piloting (various contributors), Hearst Corporation, 1999
    • Herreshoff, Halsey (consulting editor), The Sailor’s Handbook, Little Brown and Company
    • Seidman, David, The Complete Sailor, International Marine, 1995
    • Jobson, Gary, Sailing Fundamentals, Simon & Schuster, 1987

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