Wayfinding 101

Vectors are used in sailing. They are represented by sideways and forward components, as explained below. Looks like Moana needs that science after all.

The physics behind sailing is very interesting in that sailboats do not need the wind to push from behind in order to move. The wind can be blowing from the side and the sailboat can still move forward. How is this possible?

The answer lies in the well-known principle of aerodynamic lift. Imagine you are a passenger in a car as it’s moving along, and you place your right hand out the window. If you tilt your hand in the clockwise sense your hand will be pushed backwards and up. This is due to the force of the air which has a sideways component and upwards component (therefore your hand is pushed backwards and up).

In a similar fashion, when the wind blows against the sails from the side, this creates a force which has a sideways component and a forward component.

However, we do not want the sailboat to move sideways. We only want it to move forward (as much as possible). This is accomplished with a keel, located underneath the sailboat. The keel provides the counter-force necessary to resist sideways motion of the sailboat, as much as possible.

So in general, there are two main components of a sailboat which enable it to move forward effectively. They are the sail and the keel, as shown below.

Thus, the physics of sailing involves the interaction of the wind and sails, and the interaction of the water and keel.

Source: http://www.real-world-physics-problems.com/physics-of-sailing.html