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Learn to Sail a Hobie Cat

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Learn to Sail a Hobie Cat

Sail PowerBalancing the Boat
When sailing, sit on the upwind side of the boat (wind on your back) just in front of the tiller, facing the sail. Balance your weight further outboard as the boat begins to tip or heel over with the wind in the sails. Tuck one foot under the hiking strap for balance. Use your hand that is forward to hold and control the mainsheet. Use your hand that is aft to steer.


Steer the boat by pushing the tiller away from you to turn towards the wind. Pull the tiller towards you to turn away from the wind. Keep the movement of the tiller to a minimum to prevent over-steering. This will help you keep the boat moving in a straight line as you pay attention to other watercraft and sail adjustments.


Sail Power
Face the sail in order to pay close attention to the trim or adjustment of the sail. When the front of the sail, just behind the mast, luffs or flutters in the breeze, you lose power. To start moving, pull the sail in just enough to stop the sail from luffing. There are also short ribbons hanging on either side of the sail. Follow the diagram of sail and course adjustments using the "tell tails" to get the most performance out of the sail for all angles of sailing. The tell tails react to air flowing over the sail and will help you see that the sail is pulled in too tight or too loosely. If you pull the sail too tight you will stall the sail power. Ease the sail out until it luffs, then pull it in just a little until it stops luffing. You will adjust the trim whenever the wind changes direction or you change course.

Sail trim diagramRefer to the sail trim diagram for approximate sail settings for the different points of sail or directions you will be sailing. Note the "can't sail zone". You cannot sail in this direction due to the fact that the sail will luff constantly when pointed into the wind. If you get stuck in irons (or stop pointed into the wind) you will need to reverse the rudder and push the sail forward to back-wind it. The jib should be back winded by the crew to assist. This will back the boat up. Reverse the rudders and let the sail out until the boat is positioned more across the wind (close reach). Then you can correctly trim the sail and start moving forward.


To tack or turn the boat into and across the wind to the opposite direction (also known as "coming about"), follow the points of sail guide and take the boat to the close hauled point of sail. This is when you are nearly 35 degrees from sailing straight into the wind. With the boat moving forward and not stalling, push the tiller away from you slowly. When the boat is pointing straight into the wind the boat will become level. Ease the mainsheet trim out just a little. At this time move your body to the other side of the boat, switch hands with tiller and mainsheet and begin to bring the rudder back to straight. The crew should move across the trampoline at the same time. The crew is responsible to ease the jib sheet just after the main sail is released and sheet the jib onto the new course before the mainsheet is trimmed. This action by the crew will prevent the boat stalling head to wind. As the boat comes across the wind and falls off onto the opposite, close hauled point of sail, bring the tiller all the way back to the straight position and pull the mainsail back in for the proper sail trim. If you stall pointing into the wind and you cannot steer the boat, refer back to the sail power description concerning getting stuck in irons.

TurningWhen sailing downwind, the turn from one point of sail across to the other is called a jibe. The jibe is completed by turning away from the wind (falling off) to the opposite point of sail rather than into the wind as when tacking. Care must be taken when attempting a jibe as the boat will be at full power and you cannot easily de-power it without turning back into the wind. Also, be aware that the boat will be less stable in this maneuver as the sail will now have to swing clear across from fully out one side of the boat to fully out the other.

To start a jibe, turn the boat away from the wind and let the sail out slowly. Keep the turn going at a steady rate and begin pulling the sail back in as the boat nears the straight downwind direction. This will help prevent the sail from slamming all the way across when the sail fills from the opposite side. Duck below the sail to avoid getting hit as the wind fills the sail from the opposite side and swings across the boat. Attempt to control the speed of the sail while it crosses the deck by maintaining some tension on the mainsheet. Then ease the mainsheet out quickly as the boat turns past the downwind direction onto the new point of sail. Trim the sail correctly for the desired point of sail.


Launching the Boat
Launching the boat is easiest when the boat can be pointed into the wind to keep it de-powered and floated into deep enough water to lower the rudders. It is possible to launch in shallow water with the rudders partly up. Try not to steer with too much force on the rudders until you lock them in the down position. Keep the sail loose and trimmed out completely until you can power up and steer away from any obstacle. Trim the sail in quickly to get the boat moving forward and steer away from the wind slightly to prevent stalling into the wind.

When launching from a beach where the wind is blowing from the beach towards the water you simply keep the boat pointed into the wind. Drift backwards with the rudders in the up position and your weigh towards the front of the boat. Stay forward as the boat drifts into deeper water. You can hold the sail out to catch wind backwards to increase reverse speed. Then move to the rear and lower the rudders. It will be easiest to lower only one rudder while moving backwards. Then lower the other when the boat begins to move forward again. Be aware of the intended direction you wish to sail when lowering the rudder and steer the boat as the rudder drops into the water. There will be a lot of force on the rudder to turn one way or the other when going backwards. Plan ahead and steer the rudders so that they will be pointing in that direction before dropping it into the water. Steer the boat while going backwards so the bow turns away from the wind and toward the direction you wish to sail. As the sail begins to fill with wind, the boat will slow then begin to move forward. Trim in the sail and off you go.


Righting the Boat
Righting the BoatIf you tip the boat over, stay with the boat. The boat will not sink and is easy to right. It is not necessary, but it is easier, to right the boat when the bow and the mast are pointed into the wind as in the diagram.

There will be less wind resistance and better control in this position. Be sure the mainsheet is released, then swim around to the bottom of the boat. Skipper and crew should climb up on the hull and stand up. Using the righting line, skipper and crew pull the righting line that is against the upper hull and hold the line while slowly leaning back away from the trampoline. Lean to approximately 45 degrees for best leverage. As the mast and sail lift out of the water and the upper hull begins to drop back into the water, drop down to your knees then into the water. Hold onto the righting line near the crossbar or the crossbar itself near the hull that you were standing on. This will prevent the hull from being lifted into the air by momentum which could cause the boat to capsize once again. Be well aware of the hull and crossbar coming down over your head. Holding the crossbar or righting line will also insure that you remain with the boat when it is righted. Climb aboard and continue sailing.


Docking the Getaway properly will prevent damage. Always dock and rig on the leeward side of a dock (the side the wind reaches last. Come in slowly and always be aware of the wind direction so you can properly de-power the boat when needed. The stronger the wind the more difficult the docking will be. Until you feel confident, you may want to practice with a friend who will remain on the dock and help slow you down if necessary.


Beach Landings
Landing on a beach is simple. The idea is to reach the beach in the point of sail nearest straight into the wind as possible. This will assure that you can properly de-power the sail once beached.

Approaching a beach when the wind is blowing from the beach out towards the water will require some planning so that you maintain power. Turn into shore just before the hulls or rudders touch bottom. Plan so the final tack towards the location you choose to land is the tack that is nearest straight into the wind. Get a little closer to the beach than you need on the pervious tack to account for wind shifts in direction and speed. This will give you a little room for error. This will allow you to point a little further away from the wind after the tack to gain speed before heading up into the beach to de-power at the last moment.

When approaching a beach when the wind is blowing onshore, sail in towards the beach from either side of the landing spot. Sail in just short of touching the bottom with the rudders. Allow some distance to turn the boat out towards the water and into the wind just out from the landing spot. Turn sharply to head into the wind and stall the boat. Raise the rudders and drift back onto the beach.

Always keep the boat pointed into the wind while beached and keep the sail trimmed out and un-cleated.


More information about Learning to Sail Hobie Catamarans:


The Hobie Class Association offers you the book: Hobie University "Hobie U". Hobie U is a detailed "How-To" book on sailing and racing catamarans. This is free to download. HobieU.pdf (pdf 4.6 MB). For information about Hobie Cat sailing clubs see: For information about sailing schools see:

Check out our complete line of Hobie Sailboats.


Order these items from any Hobie Cat Dealer:


Learn to sail the Hobie Way

Part # HC 11720000

Catamaran Sailing (from start to finish)

Part # HC 610

Catamaran Racing

Part # HC 614

Cat Crewing

Part # HC 606



Catamaran Sailing (a step by step guide)

Part # HC 84430401

Catamaran Racing

Part # HC 84430451


Hobie Sailing and Trailering Guide (pdf 205KB). Same text as above with the addition of trailering information, in a printable pdf file.