What Is Starboard Tack?

Starboard tack is a sailing term that refers to the direction a ship or boat is traveling relative to the wind.


Sailing is a popular hobby with an enormous vocabulary of specialized terms.Sailing is a popular hobby with an enormous vocabulary of specialized terms.
If a ship is on starboard tack, it has the wind within 90 degrees of the right side of the bow.

Starboard refers to the right side of the ship, when standing on deck facing the bow. The word originates from the Old English "steorbord," referring to early vessels that had the steering mechanism located on this side.


Tacking is the act of sailing into the wind, or more specifically, the maneuver to steer the ship windward. A ship is said to be "on tack" when it is pointed in the general direction of the wind.

Right of Way

According to the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, when two ships encounter each other, the ship on starboard tack has the right of way, and the ship on port tack must yield to it. If both vessels have the same tack, the leeward ship must yield.

About the Author

Mark Keller has been writing everything from short stories to political commentary over the course of the past decade. He has written professionally since 2009 with articles appearing on LibertyMaven.com, Penguinsightings.org, Pepidemic.com and various other websites. He is a theater major at Hillsdale College in Michigan.