Wind awareness is a very important skill to learn, essential when it comes to sailing a boat safely and efficiently.
Knowing where the wind is coming from will allow you to plan your passage more effectively. Knowing the wind direction enables you to trim your sails to decrease your passage time and in some cases make the boat more pleasant to sail.
The wind direction can be obtained in a number of ways on board a boat. A lot of dinghy sailors will simply use the way the wind feels on their face to work out where the wind is coming from, however if you are new to sailing using an instrument to show you the direction can often be easier.
Boats can be fitted with a windex or burgee on top of the mast, a simple flag or arrow similar to a wind vain designed to point into the wind, enabling you to see visually where the wind is coming from. Some yachts will have instruments that allow you to view the direction at deck level, which is useful on larger yachts as it saves you straining your neck looking at the top of the mast.
Once you have a good idea of the direction of the wind relative to your boat you can start to look at your course relative to the wind and how best to trim your sails for that course.
Sails work in a similar way to an aircraft wing, creating an area of high and low pressure which creates lift;