How To Sail A Sunfish

Sunfish Racing

Sailing a Sunfish is a popular hobby among children and adults alike. It’s also a safe and fun way to enjoy the outdoors without worrying about spending a lot of money. Essentially, you can stay out on a Sunfish as long as you want without a care in the world. Below are some important concepts to understand to help learn how to sail a sunfish.


Sailing a Sunfish can be a fun getaway, but it’s also dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing in the wrong environment. Using common sense while on a sailboat can help keep you safe. It’s best to understand the rules of safe boating and follow them religiously. Here are some quick tips to help you out before you get started:

A safe sailboat has life jackets to protect from drowning. The most important safety feature is a life jacket for each person on the boat. You should also have an emergency phone, first aid kit, and anchor. Regular safety checks ensure all the components of a safe boat are in good working order. This will help you keep yourself and your fellow boaters safe.

To reiterate, do not sail a sunfish without a lifejacket. Keeping yourself and others safe while on a boat is easy with common sense and safety rules in place. Always follow the safety precautions included in this article and wear life jackets when on the water. Regular checks of your boat’s equipment will help you stay safe during outings as well as prevent accidents from happening in the first place.

Points of sail

As you may know, it is impossible to sail any sailboat directly into the wind. This is simply because if the sails point towards the wind, they will not catch any wind to propel the sailboat. However, if you point away from the wind by about 45 degrees, the sailboat is suddenly able to move.

This idea is known as “point of sail” or the sailing clock. Essentially, the further a sailboat points away relative to the wind, the further its sails need to be let out. The opposite is also true. The further a sailboat points into the wind, the further its sails must be pulled in. The exception to this rule when you point within 45 degrees either direction of the wind, this is referred to as “irons” or the “no-go-zone”

It is important to always be mindful of where you are sailing relative to the wind so that your sail can always be trimmed correctly.

steering, tacking, and jibing

Although it may seem like the most complicated aspect of sailing a sunfish, it is actually the simplest once you have the hang of it.

Sailboats that have a rudder and tiller mechanism located in the back of the boat also steer in a backwards manner; meaning that if you point the tiller to the left, the boat goes right, and if the tiller goes to the right the boat goes left. This is simply because the steering mechanism is located in the back of the boat.

To elaborate, a car drives from the front because the front tires are the ones that rotate. So, if you turn the wheel to the left the car goes left and vice versa.


A common maneuver on a sailboat occurs when the boat crosses through irons or the no go zone and the sail switches sides of the boat. To complete this maneuver, first build a considerable speed as crossing through the no go zone causes one to lose speed. Then point the tiller towards the sail and cross through the no go zone (tiller towards sail is always a tack). Once the sails stop flapping and they have filled with air, you have completed your tack.


The tack also has an evil twin called the jibe. In a Joe the boat crosses through the zone directly away from the wind and the sail will also flip sides. To complete a jibe, sail from broad reach to broad reach and watch your head for the boom to cross! Jibes are quite dangerous because the boat never slows down, and the sails hold their pressure.

Have fun!

Once again, learning how to sail a Sunfish takes lots of time, and do not feel bad if you cannot figure it out on your first day. For many sailors, it takes years to fully understand the aspect of sailing. Additionally, it is always crucial to wear you lifejacket and carry a radio. A sunfish is a very small boat so safety is of utmost importance With that being said, you are well on your way to becoming a professional Sunfish sailor! Leave any questions you may have in the comments.

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