What Does ”Sailing By The Lee” Mean?

In sailing, many terms can be confusing, especially for beginner sailors. One of these terms is what sailing by the lee means.

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Sailing by the lee is when the boat is sailing with wind crossing the leeward side of the ship. The sailing by the lee has to do with sailing the boat that is away from the wind. There are other sailing terms also about sailing away from the wind, such as leeward, leeward side, and leeway.

Sailing by the lee can also be part of an uncontrolled jibe.

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Sailing By The Lee Defined

Sailing by the lee is when the boat is sailing on the leeward side of the ship. The boat’s leeward side is the side boat that is away from the wind. The key to the leeward side is that the ship is sailing away from the wind.

Here are some terms that have to do with sailing by the lee or the leeward side of the boat:

Leeward Defined

The term leeward means the direction away from the wind. This is the direction away from where the wind is blowing.

Leeward Side Defined

The leeward side is the side of the boat, or the boat sails away from the wind.

Leeway Defined

The leeway is the sideways slippage of the boat in a direction away from the wind.

As you can see from all of these definitions, sailing by the lee is about sailing away from where the wind is going.

Sailing by the lee is usually associated with an uncontrolled jibe.

Dangerous Uncontrolled Jibes

When sailing, one of the most dangerous things you can do is to do an uncontrolled jibe. Most sailors have done a few of these at one time or another.

An uncontrolled jib can be dangerous because the boom will come over with a large force, and if the crew is not ready or someone is standing and does not duck, they can get hurt with the power of the uncontrolled jibe of the boat.

Sailing on the lee can be part of an uncontrolled jibe. When there is an uncontrolled jibe, the wind blows on the backside or dead downwind side of the boat across the back of the stern; the skipper has forgotten the mainsail sheet. The boat’s boom makes a forceful turn, swinging across the cockpit to the other side of the ship.

This accidental or uncontrolled jibe can cause the rigging of the boat to break or a crew member to be seriously hurt. That is why trying to avoid an uncontrolled jibe is very important.

The illustration below shows the uncontrolled jibe and how it happens.

No 1 – Boat Begins Jibe

The boat has begun the jibe by bearing way. It can still be possible to avoid the uncontrolled jibe if the skipper turns up to the original course.

No 2 – Boat In Dead Downwind

In position number 2, the boat is the direct downwind. The wind is directly behind the stern of the ship, and the jib is limp and starts to cross the boat. Thee skipper can avoid the uncontrolled jib if they move the tiller towards the boom and get the wind to fill the jib sail again.

The primary warning signs that you are about ready to have an uncontrolled jibe include

  • The wind is dead downwind or directly behind the stern of the boat.
  • Jib’s sail starts to go limp as there is no wind in the sail.
  • The wind starts forcing the jib to cross over to the other side of the boat.

No 3 – Sailing By The Lee

The stern of the boat has now crossed over through the wind. The jib has crossed to the other side of the ship, but the boat’s mainsail is still out, with the wind starting to curl at the backside of the ship.

In this illustration, the sailboat is now sailing by the lee because the wind first crosses the leeward side of the boat.

No 4 – Uncontrolled Jibe

At this point, the wind forces the mainsail to cross over to the other side of the boat or be on the same side of the ship that the jib sail is on.

As this is a downwind it will happen with a large force of the wind. Once the sail starts to cross over on the other side of the boat, the skipper should shout to the crew to duck under the boom.

The skipper must also steer the boat straight ahead to prevent it from turning suddenly in a roundup or doing another uncontrolled jibe.

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By clicking here, you can discover What Is Jibing In Sailing? Steps To A Proper Controlled Jibe.

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Anita L Hummel

Hi, I live in Hanoi, Vietnam but spend time traveling the region. I love to share with you things I see and learn through my travels.

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What Does ”Sailing By The Lee” Mean?