How Sailing Works

Crew members on a racing yacht brace themselves to stay on the boat. See more pictures of sailing.
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Why is almost every robust, healthy boy with a robust, healthy soul in him, at some time or other, crazy to go to sea? Why, upon your first voyage as a passenger, did you feel such a mystical vibration, when first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land?

-Herman Melville, "Moby Dick"

Sailing began as a way to explore the world. While today's sailors still retain the bold spirit of explorers from centuries past, sailing is no longer a primary means of transportation and international trade or method of war. Since the 17th century, people have been setting sail for adventure and sport [source: Athletic Scholarships].

Most modern sailors sail because they love being on the water. Sailing is ranked as the 17th fastest-growing sport in the U.S., and it's estimated that more than 4 million Americans are recreational sailors [source: The Boating Channel]. The appeal of sailing is ageless: 40 percent of sailors are between the ages of 25 to 44, and roughly 17 percent are younger than age 17 [source: The Boating Channel].

So whether you're inspired by famous explorers such as Amerigo Vespucci or Vasco Da Gama, the winners of the America's Cup sailing races, or you just love the feel of wind in your hair, sailing is a sport to sate your adventurous side. Fair winds!

Next we'll learn about some of the more popular types of sailing, plus discover a few adventurous ways to find (and show off) your sea legs.