“Nor is it wiser to weep a true occasion lost, but trim our sails, and let old bygones be.” – Alfred Tennyson
No sailboat can go directly into the wind. For any given boat there is a minimum angle that it can sail relative to the wind, typically 45% or so to either side of the true wind. The “no-go zone” is depicted below by the red hash marks.
To sail to a point upwind, you must use a technique called tacking, which is to say sailing close-hauled to the wind as is shown by “B” on the left and then turning the bow of the boat through the eye of the wind to point “B” on the right. The boat moves in a zig-zag pattern, slowly but surely making its way upwind. If there is insufficient momentum to move the boat through the “no-go zone” the sails will luff and the boat will slow down and eventually stop or go backward.
So it is in life.
Sometimes your destination is downwind and sometimes it is upwind. You must adjust your approach and learn to trim your sails for either if you are to continue moving forward. If you don’t, you’ll inevitably slow down, stop or even go backward.
Most can tell the difference between moving upwind or downwind, so I’ll leave that discussion for another day. My interest this morning is to provide you with a few pointers for tacking more gracefully when the winds are against you:
1. Remember that the wind – even if it is a direct headwind – is always a source of propulsion. You may have to adjust your approach, but it can always be used to advantage.
2. If you have to adjust your approach in your movement toward a goal, do so decisively, firmly, yet gracefully. Wallowing, wishy-washiness or tentative adjustments are likely to leave you “in irons”, that is, in the “no-go zone”.
3. Don’t spend precious energy bemoaning the fact that it is taking longer to reach your goal than anticipated. Zig-zagging will take longer than a direct shot, but when the winds are against you there is no choice. When tacking you are wise to dedicate any available energy to trimming your sails, to making the most out of the situation at hand with all available resources.