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Tacking Practice

A first, small boat sailors may find the moves involved in a tack feel unnatural. But if you practice the motions — beginning with proper form and sitting on the windward side of the boat, it will become almost automatic.

Here’s a good breakdown of the steps in slow motion on land. This basic process holds for any size sailboat from 10 to 20 feet.*  Practice this and you’ll tack consistently, and you won’t end up on the low side of the boat, tangled up in the sheet or dropping the tiller!

(*US Sailing does not emphasize easing the mainsheet to slow the boat; there may be some situations where this is a good idea. Also, I’d like to see the skipper not move the rudder so much when he is switching hands).


This second video demonstrates a few common mistakes. Avoid these!

Points of Sail, Lifts, Headers, and Lay Lines

We have some beginners in the club and some sailors wanting to learn to race. Here are some introductory slides on the points of sail. Then we transition to how you can sail upwind for fun and in racing, by understanding your lay-lines and playing the lifts and headers. Slides

Ready to Race?

Some of our sailors will be sailing at a Regatta later this Spring. Learning to race is a great way to improve your sailing. Each boat requires a skipper and crew person, so even newer sailors can join in if they’d like to experience racing.

If you’ve never seen a sailboat race, here are two useful videos.

This first video, produced by a student at UGA, explains how buoys are used to mark out a race course on the water.

And here is an example of a race start from the 2013 national college sailing championship. (These are very high-level teams! It’s like the March Madness of sailing!)

Rigging a Sailboat

Many years ago at Yellow Creek, the park would rent out a sailboat to anyone who could properly rig one!  They figured that though lots of people “say” they know how to sail, if someone can rig the boat, they must know what they’re doing!

Rigging usually involves:

  1. uncovering the boat
  2. gathering items (PFD, rudder, sails)
  3. bending on and raising the jib sail
  4. bending on the mail sail
  5. attaching a rudder
  6. attaching a painter
  7. raising the sails

But each boat is a little different. Each club and boat owner may have a different habit as to how they set it up or put it away.

This year, IUP has new Club FJ sailboats. We’ll be rigging them for the first time, starting from the basics (putting the boats together after storage) .

Here’s a great setup video, where two teens put together an FJ 

Every time you sail, there’s a process to launch the boat. Below is a very good tutorial from the Columbia U sailing club. There are slight variations among FJs of different years, but this is basically how our boats will be set up.

Here is a simple step by step PDF.

For a very detailed guide, download this draft FJ Rigging Procedures PDF for FJs at Yellow Creek (FOYC/IUP).

It’s also a great time to learn the names of the parts of the boat; jump to slide 16 in our learn to sail slide stack.


Sailors Know Knots

IUP students can learn to sail with their peers and the guidance of certified US Sailing instructors. You don’t need experience or to have been sailing before. One fun and useful skill to pick up — even before it is warm enough to get on a boat — is how to tie some common sailing knots.

The classics that every sailors should know are:

  1. Figure eight stopper
  2. Square knot
  3. Bowline
  4. Cleat hitch

There are many online resource but these videos make it simple to practice.

IUP Racing 2024

IUP sailors have the opportunity to participate in up to six regattas in Spring and Fall of 2024, as a member of the Mid-Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association.  Check us out this Spring … learn to sail and (if you like) learn to race!

Thankful for Sailing Friends and Volunteers

Last week, we were able to purchase and pick up six FJ sailboats from Middle River, Maryland. These Chesapeake hulls will be a great addition for our youth and college sailors–beginners who are just learning and experienced folks who want to try racing.

Donors over the years to FOYC sailing and the foundation account for IUP sailing made this possible. We were able to pool resources to purchase a joint fleet; each organization taking responsibility for half.

Thanks especially to Nathanael Arthurs, who helped facilitate the purchase. And to all the volunteers who helped us unload, organize, and put the boats away for the winter.

We are always looking for new sailors. Are you a youth or adult who wants to learn how to sail? Are you an experienced sailor looking to get back into the sport, perhaps even teaching others? Please contact

We want sailing to be accessible to all with modest participation fees. Our expenses are ongoing, including insurance, new sails, and equipment repairs.

If you are able to contribute, both community sailing at Friends of Yellow Creek and the sailing club alumni IUP Foundation invite tax deductable donations. Write or

Donations are accepted any time via:

FOYC PA Parks and Forests Foundation

IUP Foundation Alumni Sailing Club

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