Learn Sailing Mechanics Without Leaving Dry Land

The ancient art of sailing can be very intimidating for the uninitiated given the shifty nature of wind. To help understand the interaction of wind direction and board orientation, [KifS] designed a hands-on sailing demonstrator that lets students grasp the basics before setting foot on a real sailboat.

The demonstrator uses a potentiometer as a tiller to control a model sailboat’s angle, while another stepper motor adjusts the position of a fan to simulate changing wind directions. With an Arduino Uno controlling everything, this setup affords students the opportunity to learn about sail positioning and adjusting to shifting winds in an interactive way, without the pressures and variables of being on the water.

[KifS]’s creation isn’t just about static demonstrations. It features four modes that progressively challenge learners—from simply getting a feel for the tiller, to adjusting sails with dynamic wind changes, even adding a game element that introduces random wind movements demanding quick adjustments. [KifS] mentions there are potentials aspects that can be refined, like more realistic sail response and usability, but it already achieved the main project goals.

There are a myriad of potential ways to add new tech to the ancient art of sailing. We’ve seen a DIY autopilot system, full sensor arrays, and an open source chart plotter. It’s even been proven you can have a wind powered land vehicle that travels faster than the wind.

31 thoughts on “Learn Sailing Mechanics Without Leaving Dry Land

      1. This works for the same reason we have a training room in my local Sailing Club that you can rig a dinghy in out of the weather. It’s handy to have something that you can demonstrate things on when the weather is too bad to get on the water.

    1. This only works well when you (roughly) have a 1:1 ratio of teachers vs students. When I learned sailing (as a university student, in a group of about 20), we did the theory first, and then took the boats.

      For the students with a engineering or physics background, the mechanics were fairly easy to grasp, while the others struggled more (of course, there were outliers, in both directions). For the second group, this might have helped.

    2. Just like R/C aircraft (and full scale) simulators you can learn a LOT before ever putting a plane in the air, or sail boat in the water :) . Just like in college you learn a lot of, say, electrical and computer theory, and then enter the work force and put it to actual use. Your along way ahead if you approach problems this way :) .

    1. Agree.
      Why not just add headsail and spinnaker as well ⛵️Thats a real challenge for the builder next step. I’m tarining new people every spring in my boat. Would be Nice to have this in the start og the course. Not with 115m2 ratteling over the students head (quite noisy)

  1. I learned by being put out in a dingy in a lake on a calm-ish day at age about 10. Told let sail out till it luffs, pull in till sail fills. Go places.
    To those that call sailing a privelaged sport- this was through Boy Scouts so basically free. And look at Craig’s list there are people practically begging/paying you to take their small sailboat from them. So a small boat costs about zero or at least one to get you started if you must learn on your own.
    I do like the idea in the article though, it would help those that are a bit older than child/adolescent. Older people (teens maybe) could see the logic in it. Younger, like me it would just be confusing.
    My free advise and worth every penny.

    1. “a small boat costs about zero”

      Well, growing up in a small fishing village I can safely say that statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Much closer to the truth is “a boat is a hole in the water you pour money into”.

      The cases where people are begging/paying you to take their boat away involve a nightmare boat that should definitely not be a starting place for beginners. Stay away from those.

      Sailing is definitely a privileged sport, although it can be more accessible than flying or show jumping or polo, etc…

      1. While most boats are money pits, I find that doesn’t really apply to canoes and small sailboats (lasers, sunfish, etc.). You can do almost any repair it needs yourself in a garage using relatively inexpensive epoxy and fiberglass. As long as it has a solid mast (that solidly attaches to the hull), and you are patient when acquiring components like a sail, you should be able to get a free Laser style sailboat in the water for under $200.

  2. as a sailing coach for over 50 years we go out and teach Sailing. It’s a five year program minimum if you wanna race on the competitive level .as far as the intricacies of pressure and lift to a scientist This probably makes more sense ,
    but certainly not to you learning how to sail initially

  3. “Tacking off on a Northeast wind,
    sailing on a summer breeze,
    skippin’ over the ocean like a stone!”

    Everybody’s Talkin’ – Harry Eduard Nilsson

  4. Check out MarineVerse app for the Quest-2 VR headset. It’s pretty good with sailing, water, sail, boat and wind physics as well as great real-time visuals. I made a “floor sailing dinghy” that had a tiller and mainsheet with the motion tracking controllers mounted. I imagine you could incorporate Danie’s hardware to add 3D visuals. Great hacking!

  5. it is not a privileged sport any more. I see small dinghy for $200 to $300 all day long so don’t tell me that kid with the PS5 and 20 games for it can not afford a small sailboat. small 12 to 14 foot cats for under 500 all day long as well. Granted they are not brand new or a 50 foot cruising catamaran but they are insane fun to sail (the cats that is for me anyway) the argument that sailing is a privileged sport is pure BS non start argument for me any more.

    now onto the topic, it is neat to see a simulator and it is probably nice for some of the basics in sailing and tacking but you really need to be on the water to see what someone means by reading the wind, that is not something that I believe is doable on any browser.

    1. +1 Thank you.
      I grew up, um, lower middle class and learned to sail for practically free. Dinghys are super fun and super cheap and, IMHO more fun and skilled to sail than Big Boats. In scouts. As teens, in Explorers, we were given cabin-day sailers and free reign of SF bay. It was a different time I guess but we could handle the craft just fine.
      From there I met people looking for crew and sailed races, also for free, in a bunch of regattas. Good race experience and fun, never amounted to anything other than a great day on the water as a teen. We talked our way into sailing tall ships on the bay, a totally different thing.
      When I got to (public) university I found out collegiate sailing was un-reachable despite my experience wait list was a mile long.
      Now I laugh at the thought that sailing is exclusive. I did it as a poor kid for feee and ended up racing and sailing tail ships only because I loved it and paid zero $$

  6. I think this is cool and would like to get it for my daughter to practice before we sail this summer. Only thing is I can’t find it. I googled KifS but nothing related to this item came up. How could I get more information on this?

  7. The problem with ‘privilege’ is that it is a spectrum, and where you sit on that spectrum effectively dictates what you see as privileged or no privileged. This makes claims that something isn’t privileged very subjective. Also any kid with $1000+ of video gaming gear would definitely be privileged in my book, although maybe you consider that under privileged…

    Cheap old sail boats with a questionable maintenance history + inexperience operator = tax payer funded search and rescue effort. I am sure there are bargains out there, but there are also plenty of nightmare boats for sale “cheap”, and it takes experience to tell the bargains from the nightmares…

  8. People learn in lots of different ways. Have those ‘sticks in the muds 😀’ who are so negative never read sailing books, magazines or watched YouTube or visited sailing forums? Why knock someone who has created a different learning tool?

    Several years ago when I was learning I got frustrated with the learning resources on offer so I created a sailing simulator on PC and Mac. (eSail) It is now available for purchase and is also in the Western Australia Maritime Museum for kids to try their hand at sailing. We met a young man there yesterday who was enjoying eSail. He will be out trying real sailing today. One thing doesn’t stop the other. so I say good luck to the creator of this project!

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.