The Howard Rice Interview: Wind Indicators and Telltales

One of our favorite magazines, Small Craft Advisor, interviewed expert sailor Howard Rice. In this interview, Rice shared 50 of his best tips for sailing. Today, I want to discuss Tip no. 31- Wind Indicators and Telltales.

Rice’s Tip:

“Employ a masthead wind direction indicator and telltales. All sailors can become better sailors by using simple non-electronic/non-mechanical wind direction indicators.”

I completely agree with Rice- I can’t tell you how much we depend on our wind indicator. As a matter of fact, it was how we won this sailing race last year.

Last year, at the Utah Summer Games Tyler and I were in our last race on a sunny summer day at Deer Creek Reservoir in Utah. It was down to the wire between us and two other Hobie’s. Tyler was watching the wind indicator and saw a wind shift coming from behind us. We adjusted our sails to take advantage of it. Pretty soon we were making speed in extremely light wind. The other two boats quickly saw our course change and followed suit. It was a close top three at the finish line, but our wind indicator saved our win as we came in six inches ahead of second place.

We use our wind indicator and telltales on every we do. When it comes to finding a general wind direction, the wind indicator is well worth the purchase. Our indicator sits on the bridal, but I found some great looking indicators that sit on top of the mast on the West Marine site. Click the Amazon link below to find the best price for a good quality wind indicator.

Wind Indicator on Amazon

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  1. Josh Gaskill says

    I was just wondering how you determine the true wind with a wind indicator. I was told that wind indicators don’t give you the true wind because the wind caused by the forward motion of the boat throws off the direction (apparent wind). I have always been recommended telltales over wind indicators.

    1. getwet says

      Hey Josh,
      Good Question. Would love to hear others comments about this. Here is my take on your question. Telltales and wind indicators are like apples and oranges. Telltales will show you the wind as it moves across the sail. That will give you a very good idea on how well your sails are set and shaped. Good flow (telltales flowing back) usually means you are doing things right. Wind indicators (yarn on the shrouds or commercial devices) will tell you the apparent wind, not the true wind like you mentioned. What you need to do is learn to “read” the apparent wind as it effects your wind indicators and adjust your direction and sails accordingly. Wind indicators will never give you fine tuning just a general direction. Experience and Skill are the only reliable factors when setting a course. I know a lot of sailors who never use wind indicators because they have “tuned in” to wind direction and sail set, however just about everybody uses the telltales for zoning in on the sail set. Have some fun sailing and stop back to tell us all how it goes. Terry

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