A boat is said to be tacking when it changes course by turning so that the bow (and not the stern) passes through the direction from which the wind is blowing.

On the other hand a boat is said to gybe (also jibe in USA) when it changes course by turning so that the stern (and not the bow) passes through the direction from which the wind is blowing. See also: Sailing by the lee

Head to wind Edit

When the bow of a boat is pointed directly into the wind she is said to be head to wind. Normally this is a transitional state while changing tack and not a permanent state. As the boat sails head to wind the head sail and mainsail luff and therefore lose power. If the bow remains pointed directly into the wind then eventually forward boat speed goes to zero and she is said to be in irons. As time passes she may even start to move slowly backwards.

This is a common point of sail to find yourself in when your boat first spawns upon joining a new race. To escape being in irons move the rudder fully to one side or the other and hoist the head-sail. Since the boat is drifting in reverse the rudder position will cause the bow of the boat to fall away (i.e. turn away from the wind) in the opposite direction to what you would normally experience when she has forward motion. Once her sails stop luffing they are once again drawing power from the wind and will gradually decelerate the reverse motion and accelerate her forward. At that point you should center the rudder and then begin small rudder movements to continue with the turn that was started while in reverse.

Tack and "head to wind" illustrated
File:Upwind tack stardboard2port.gif
File:Upwind tack port2stardboard.gif
File:Upwind penalty turn gybe plus aborted tack.gif
animated images wanted

Stern to wind Edit

Also referred to as "sailing by the lee" this is a necessary transitional state when gybing however it is technically possible to pass stern to wind and yet never complete a gybe. A gybe has not completed until the main sail has switched from one side of the boat to the other.

This second point is worth keeping in mind if you are required to take a penalty turn on a downwind leg. When used to full advantage you can complete a penalty turn and change tack in the one maneuver. Just remember that Rule 44 requires that you keep clear of other boats while taking your penalty turn.

Gybe and "stern to wind" illustrated
File:Downwind gybe stardboard2port.gif
File:Downwind gybe port2stardboard.gif
File:Downwind penalty turn tack plus aborted gybe.gif
animated images wanted