Wind is an extremely important factor that affects both general sailing and Naval Combat. Learning to use the wind is part of learning to play the game, especially on the higher Difficulty levels.

This article discusses how wind affects sailing. For extreme wind conditions like storms, please read the Weather article.

General InformationEdit

Wind is the movement of large quantities of air from one place to another, resulting from pressure differences across vast areas. Mankind learned to harness the power of wind using Sails, both on land (windmills) and on sea (sailing ships).

Ships make use of the wind through their Sails. The sail, a big piece of fabric, is stretched like a big net that "traps" the wind. The pressure the wind exerts on a sail is used to drag along whatever that sail is connected to - I.E. the ship itself. Without wind to push at it, a sail is useless.

Therefore, sailing ships are almost entirely dependent on wind for propulsion. While in the real world, many smaller ships had the ability to use oars to row themselves in the direction they wanted to go (in the absence of wind), all ships in the various Pirates! games are assumed to be wind-powered only.

The Importance of Wind DirectionEdit

Wind is not constanty blowing in the same direction. As air pressure in a given area rises or drops, wind in that area will change direction. It can blow towards the North one day, and towards the West another day, and so on.

Given that a sail is meant to trap the wind, it is crucial to stretch the sail so that its surface area is facing the wind. If the angle of the sail to the wind is wrong, the wind will either move around the sail instead of being trapped in it, or it will push the sail in the wrong direction, causing the ship to move in an unwanted direction.

The simplest kind of sail, a "Square Sail", handles this in the most straightforward manner: Wind must hit the sail from behind, becoming trapped, pushing the sail (and hence the ship) forward. Lateen Sails, triangular in shape, work more like an aircraft's wing, utilzing winds that pass along the sail's length.

Regardless of design, this reliance on the proper alignment between the sail and the wind means that each ship must orient itself in a specific angle, relative to the wind's angle, in order to attain maximum velocity. It also means that at some angles to the wind, the ship's sails will fail, causing the entire ship to slow down, stop, or even sail backwards.

Points of SailingEdit

Main article: Points Of Sailing
Wind PointsOfSailing

The 9 Points of Sailing, as shown in the Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004) Pirate-O-Pedia.
(Click to enlarge)

Since wind direction keeps changing, and ships need to reorient themselves to make the best use of it, it is necessary to establish a set of terms to describe the relative angle between the ship and the wind.

This system is called the "Points of Sailing". It is a collection of names describing the angle between the ship's heading and the direction of the wind at any given time. This way, instead of saying "The wind is coming from behind the ship", we instead say that the ship is running "Before The Wind". Instead of saying that "the wind is coming directly from the right or the left of the ship", we say that the ship is running at "Beam Reach.

This system describes 9 different angles. It starts with "Before The Wind", where the wind is coming in from directly behind the ship, and ends with "Into The Eye", where the wind is coming in directly from the front of the ship. Each intermediary angle is 22.5 degrees further off from the previous one.

Note that these degrees represent an offset either to the left or right of the wind direction. In other words, from "Before The Wind", turning either right or left will put you at "Running Reach" - doesn't matter which one.

Each ship design will behave differently at each of these angles. Some ships sail fastest when "Before The Wind", others when at "Beam Reach". The angle at which the ship sails fastest is referred to as its "Best Point of Sailing".

All ships will maintain acceptable speed at anywhere between "Before The Wind" and "Broad Beam Reach". Beyond this angle, most ships will begin to experience a considerable slow-down. Smaller ships, especially ones fitted with Fore-And-Aft Rigging, can keep sailing even when "Close-Hauled" or possibly "Into The Eye". Larger ships may stop entirely at these angles, and in some games may begin to sail backwards (or rather, drift in the direction of the wind).

East And WestEdit

In the Caribbean, winds come from the Atlantic Ocean in the east, and blow inwards to the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, wind direction is predominantly towards the West, though it may veer all the way to South or North on occasion.

Since, as explained above, wind direction determines ship speed, the result is that most ships will find it easy to sail generally Westwards, and will have trouble sailing generally Eastwards.

This has a great effect on the game in several ways. For one, it means that any time you sail Westwards, you need to remember that sailing back towards where you started will take a longer amount of time. Additionally, it means that having a smaller ship (or a fleet comprised of small ships) will make sailing around the Caribbean easier, since these ships suffer less impact on their speed from unfavourable winds.


Main article: Weather

While on the Sailing Map, a good indicator for wind direction is watching the clouds that sail by. Clouds will drift on the wind, whichever way it happens to go.

Clouds also represent areas where the wind is generally stronger. This has different implications in different versions of the game. In some games, passing under a cloud can force your ship to change direction, possibly getting trapped by the wind and being forced to sail a certain distance whichever way the wind happens to go. In other games, passing under a Storm cloud causes direct damage to your ship.

Nonetheless, it is important to know that strong winds increase your ship's speed on the Sailing Map. In combat, however, strong winds can have various effects. They will speed up ships at certain Points of Sailing, and slow them down at others. For example, a Frigate heading at its Best Point of Sailing in a strong wind will be faster than any other ship. However, when heading Into The Eye a strong wind will force it to hold still, or possibly even pull it along (sailing backwards). Each Ship Type reacts differently to this effect. And of course, ships with damaged sails will behave differently as well - usually to the damaged ship's detriment.

Icon Pirates1987 Header Pirates1987Pirates! (1987)Edit

The most major feature of the wind unique to Pirates! (1987) is its ability to drag ships with it. It is also more difficult, in this game, to predict or even determine wind speed and strength.

On The Sailing MapEdit

While sailing on the Sailing Map, the only indicator of wind speed and direction are the white Clouds fleeting around your ship.

The direction in which the clouds are moving indicates the exact direction of the wind. The speed at which they move indicates wind strength.

Note that in the original game, a Fleet containing large or damaged ships may find it impossible to sail Into The Eye. The fleet can stop dead in the water, unable to move until you change your heading even slightly.

In addition, when the winds are strong, large ships can get "caught" by the wind. This occurs when passing under or close to a fast-moving cloud. When this occurs, the Fleet automatically changes its heading to Before The Wind, and will sail a randomly-determined distance in that direction. The player can do nothing to avert this once it is triggered. It is advised to keep trying to turn your Fleet away, so that once the wind stops dragging your Fleet, you can immediately resume course.

This is especially dangerous when sailing in areas with Shoals. The wind can "grab" your fleet, run it over the shoals, and cause you to lose one or more ships!

Note that in this game, there is no exact wind indicator to be seen.

During Naval CombatEdit

1987 Combat CannonRange

In this picture, a strong wind is coming from the East-South-East, blowing towards the West-North-West. The Sloop, heavily damaged, is sailing "backwards" (i.e. to the West-North-West).

The Naval Combat screen provides a wind direction and speed indicator. This appears in two forms:
  1. The letter "W" will appear somewhere around the edge of the combat zone, indication the "origin" of the wind. For example, if the "W" appears on the right side of the combat zone, the wind is coming from the East, and is heading West. Therefore, if your ship is also heading West, it is said to be "Running Before The Wind".
  2. The status bar separating the combat zone display from the two combatants' status displays shows wind direction and speed. For example, it can say "Light Winds from the ESE", meaning a light wind is blowing in from East South East, towards West North West.

There are only three possible wind speeds in this game: "Light", "Medium" and "Strong". The stronger the wind, the better your sailing speed when heading away from it ("Before The Wind" to "Beam Reach"), and the slower you are when heading into it ("Close-Hauled Beam Reach" to "Into The Eye").

Unlike other games, sailing in a very unfavourable direction (specifically "Close-Hauled" and "Into The Eye") will cause most ships to sail backwards. This is indicated by the speed gauge for that ship going into negative numbers (i.e. "-1", "-2", etcetera). In fact, the ship is not sailing backwards based on its heading, it is actually being dragged in the same direction as the one the wind is blowing to. For example, if the wind is blowing towards the South West, sailing "backwards" will cause your ship to drift South West of its position.

Also note that in this game, wind does not affect maneuverability. A ship will turn at the same rate regardless of where the wind is blowing or how the ship is oriented.

East And WestEdit

The most common wind directions, both on the Sailing Map and during Naval Combat, are from the East, East North East, and East South East.

Wind will never blow directly from the South or North on the Sailing Map, and though this has been observed during Naval Combat, it is exceptionally rare. Therefore, expect the wind to be blowing at least slightly from the East at all times.

Icon Pirates2004 Header Pirates2004Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004)Edit

In Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004), wind is a usually lot more detailed than in previous games. However, the game now offers a Wind Indicator that shows the exact direction and strength of the wind at any time.

The Wind IndicatorEdit

2004 SailingMap WindIndicator

The Wind Indicator on the Sailing Map, showing a strong, 16-knot wind blowing directly towards the West.

This indicator appears at the bottom-left of the screen on both the Sailing Map and the Naval Combat mini-game. It consists of a red arrow inside a golden circle, as well as some numeric data. Note that this indicator also doubles as a compass.

The red arrow shows both wind direction and strength in an at-a-glance format. The direction of the arrow is the same as the direction of the wind: for instance, an arrow pointing directly to the left indicates that the wind is blowing from East to West. The size of the arrow indicates wind speed, with a tiny arrow indicating poor winds (2-5 knots) and a very large arrow indicating a powerful gale (can be as high as 20 knots). The numeric indicator below the arrow shows exact wind speed, so you don't actually have to guess based on the size of the arrow.

Wind DirectionEdit

In this game, wind direction does not adhere exactly to the 16 compass points (e.g. North-East, South, etc.). It shifts gradually between these points, as can be seen by the red arrow in the wind indicator. This goes hand in hand with the fact that ships themselves can now turn to much finer angles as well.

On Apprentice difficulty, the wind is always blowing from East to West. Wind direction will never change at all at this difficulty. As difficulty is increased, the wind's maximum deviation from this angle will increase proportionally. Therefore, at Swashbuckler difficulty it is possible (though rare) to see the wind coming directly from the North or South, and some players have reported seeing winds blowing slightly East of this.

Wind SpeedEdit

Wind speed in this game is only partially random - it is more dependent on your location on the map as well as the current Weather.

Wind speed near coastlines tends to drop significantly, all the way down to 2 knots sometimes. In the open waters of the Caribbean, the average wind speed is around 6-8 knots.

On the Sailing MapEdit

On the Sailing Map, you can see clouds of various color and size running in the direction of the wind, as it was in previous games. However, the cloud itself indicates an area where the wind is stronger: the wind around and underneath clouds is much stronger than in areas with no clouds. Storm-clouds (coloured dark grey) indicate areas where the wind is strongest, possibly going up to 20 knots. Note that as the cloud moves, the area it affects moves along with it.
Note that on the Sailing Map, the wind cannot actually stop a ship from moving, even if the ship is sailing directly Into The Eye, regardless of Ship Type. At worst, the ship (or fleet) will sail at the minimum speed, but still forwards.

During Naval CombatEdit

In Naval Combat, initial wind properties match the direction and speed it had on the Sailing Map when combat was initiated. During combat, both wind speed and direction can change and shift considerably, especially if the two combatants chase each other far from where combat began. Note that there are no clouds in Naval Combat, and both ships are always subjected to the same direction and speed of the wind, regardless of how far from one another they are at any given time.
During combat, unfavourable winds can cause a ship to stop dead in the water. However, unlike previous games, it is impossible for the wind to push a ship against its current heading (I.E. sailing backwards) as was possible in previous games. This is true regardless of wind speed.
Wind Speed during combat affects both a ship's speed and its manoeuvrability. Wind speed alters the Maximum Speed of any ship, so that in weak winds most ships cannot achieve their absolute "top" speed at all, regardless of where they are heading. In gale-force winds, the Frigate- and Combat Galleon-Class ships can get amazingly high speeds when running Before The Wind. The Pinnace Class is somewhat of an exception, as it can achieve pretty spectacular speed regardless of wind strength.
Manoeuvrability is also significantly affected by wind speed. The stronger the wind, the faster all ships can turn. The difference is minute, but can be felt especially with larger ships. Also note that as a ship turns Into The Eye, its turning rate is significantly increased for a very short instant. This prevents ships from being put In Irons and becoming unable to manoeuvre.

East and WestEdit

As with previous games, most commonly the wind will blow at least slightly from the East towards the West. At the lowest Difficulty setting, it always blows directly from East to West on both the Sailing Map and Naval Combat screens. As difficulty increases, the randomness of wind increases, and it can even blow directly from the North or South sometimes on Swashbuckler difficulty.

This means that sailing towards the Western parts of the map is considerably easier than sailing towards the East. Nonetheless, some ships (especially Pinnace Class ships) can still develop reasonable speeds when heading Close-Hauled, enabling them to reach the east only marginally slower than the west. These ships are great for captains who like to (or need to) sail all around the Caribbean (for example, when chasing Evil Spaniards).