Wind Indicators & Tell-Tales

Wind Indicators

Hawk Wind indicator MK2
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Some dinghies and yachts have wind vanes to provide information on where the breeze is coming from… which can be especially useful when running downwind so you know when you are running by the lee (ie. when you are sailing, the boom is normally on the other side of the boat from where the wind is coming from. When sailing by the lee, you are sailing with the wind, but the wind has moved around and is just coming from the same side as the boom is on, which can cause you to jibe unexpectedly).

Wind indicators come in a few different styles. They simply help by giving you a quick visual reference of the wind direction.

They are attached to the mast, generally located between the deck and boom, or at the top of the mast.


3 sets of Tell-tales
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Most of us want to get the maximum speed out of our boat when sailing, regardless of whether we are Laser sailing, sailing on any other type of dinghy, or a yacht. And this means that we have to be able to trim the sail efficiently to get the most out of it. By having tell-tales on the sail, it gives us a good indication of how we have to trim the sail to be optimal.

Tell-tales are small strips (approx 10cm or 4in long and 5mm or 1/5in wide) of tape or material located on both sides of the sail. Sometimes there may be a few sets of tell-tales on the 1 sail. Light yarn tell-tales are preferred by many for their all-round performance.

When heading upwind or reaching they assist by indicating how the air is flowing across the sail. You want the tell-tales to be flowing nice and smoothly on both sides.

If the tell-tale on the windward side is flapping or hanging straight down, the air is not flowing over that surface of the sail optimally, so you need to pull it on (you may also see an uneven surface in the front of the sail along the mast edge, or the luff).

Conversely, if the leeward tell-tale is flapping, the sail is pulled on too much and needs to be eased to get the air flowing nicely over that part of the sail.

The art is to get the tell-tales on both sides of the sail flowing nicely. This means that the air is flowing over both surfaces of the sail optimally, and it is trimmed correctly.

ImageTitleRatingMore Info
Ronstan Tell TailsRonstan Tell Tails – Set of 3 Pairs by Ronstan

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Davis Instruments Air-Flow TelsDavis Instruments Air-Flow Tels
4.6 out of 5 stars
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Air-Flow TelsAir-Flow Tels
4.7 out of 5 stars
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Davis Instruments Black Max Wind IndicatorDavis Instruments Black Max Wind Indicator
4.3 out of 5 stars
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Davis Instruments Windex 10 Suspension BearingDavis Instruments Windex 10 Suspension Bearing
4.5 out of 5 stars
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  1. Max Brown on November 12, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Where should the telltales be placed on the sail to best show the air flow. I need to know for Full rig and Radial

    • admin on November 13, 2012 at 2:51 am

      hi Max, thanks for your question.
      As you might expect, there are varying opinions on where they should go. It’s probably best to just buy some and test out the different positions for yourself.
      However as a general rule, try fairly close to the mast (within a foot of the mast pocket), and a few feet up from the boom (say 2 pairs). Also, you may want to put some on the leech (say 3 telltales at 1/4, 1/2 & 3/4 along the leech).
      There’s a few conversations on the website (tell-tales on a radial & tell tales).
      Hope this helps. Let us know how you go 🙂

  2. Max Brown on November 13, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    Thanks for your reply and tips.
    Max Brown

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