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A beginner’s guide to sailing

If you are planning to join us aboard Bella of London any time soon, there is one thing you should be aware of. Whilst she is a luxury yacht, we encourage our guests to get hands on and to take part in all aspects of their sail.

From tacking to jibing and of course brewing a great cuppa’, everybody has a job assigned to them when on board Bella of London

Now as you’d probably expect, there’s a fair amount of terminology and lingo used in the maritime world that you may or may not be familiar with and we don’t expect you to be a professional or to remember the terms so please don’t be overwhelmed if you don’t quite understand.

We know that tacking and jibing are not terms that you hear in normal conversation and may be rather confusing or intimidating at first, so we’ve put together a beginners guide to sailing to provide you with a helpful start to get you familiarised with the key terminology before you set sail!

Our top 10 sailing terms for beginners:

  • 1. Stern – This is the back of the boat. It can also be referred to as the aft. 
  • 2. Bow – The front of the boat is referred to as the bow. When trying to determine left and right always face the bow.
  • 3. Port – Port is always the left-hand side of the boat when facing the bow.
  • 4. Starboard - Starboard is always the right-hand side of the boat when facing the bow. 
  • 5. Helm – The wheel used to steer the boat.
  • 6. Knot – The term used to measure speed or distance per hour. A Knott is one nautical mile per hour and equates roughly 1.15 mph. A nautical mile is 1/60th of a degree and there are of course 360 degrees in the circumference of the earth (or the earth circumfrenece is 60 nautical miles x 360 = 21600 nautical miles.)
  • 7. Windward – This is the direction that the wind is blowing. 
  • 8. Leeward – Also referred to as ‘lee’. This is the opposite way to which the wind is blowing.
  • 9. Tacking – This is a manoeuvre where the bow of the boat is turned through the wind allowing the wind to change from one side to another, resulting in the boat changing direction. This is used more often as it is easier to change with the wind rather than against it.
  • 10. Jibing – This is the opposite of tacking. A similar manoeuvre but instead the stern of the boat is turned through the wind from one side to another, resulting in a change of direction. This is slightly more difficult as it requires the boat to turn directly into the wind.  

Sailing rules and regulations:

Now that you are familiar with the lingo there are a number of rules and regulations that you need to be aware of when you are on board, to ensure both your safety and that of other sailors. 

  • 1.    Always maintain a safe speed so that you are in full control of the vessel at all times. 
  • 2.    Be sure to keep a look out to avoid colliding with another vessel.
  • 3.    If you are heading towards another vessel and are at risk of colliding, the rule is whichever boat has the other boat on its starboard (right) side, must yield and give right of way to the other boat.
  • 4.    A sailboat should keep distance from any other boat that it is engaged in fishing, restricted in moving or not under command. 
  • 5.    All crew should keep their life jacket on at all times when above aboard. 

We hope that our introductory guide has been useful to you and that when you next step on board Bella of London, you will do so with confidence! We aim to keep a relaxed atmosphere at all times, but clearly we need to ensure your safety always comes first. 

If you wish to join the crew on any of our up and coming racing or cruising events, then do please contact our skipper, Mike, on 0207 305 5000 or alternatively visit and book your place with us directly today. 

Posted 26th February @ 9:44

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