Sailing comprises wind propulsion of a craft by means of sails or other airfoils and steering it over water, ice or land, depending on the type of craft.
A sailor manages the force of the wind on the sails by adjusting their angle with respect to the moving sailing craft and sometimes by adjusting the sail area. The force transmitted from the sails is resisted by forces from the hull, keel, and rudder of a sailing craft, by forces from skate runners for an iceboat, and by forces from wheels for a land sailing craft to allow steering a course on a point of sail with respect to the true wind.
While there are still some places in the world where sail-powered passenger, fishing and trading vessels are used, these craft have become rarer as internal combustion engines have become economically viable in even the poorest and most remote areas.
In most countries sailing is enjoyed as a recreational activity or as a sport. Recreational sailing or yachting can be divided into racing and cruising. Cruising can include extended offshore and ocean-crossing trips, coastal sailing within sight of land, and daysailing.
Throughout history sailing has been instrumental in the development of civilization, affording humanity greater mobility than travel over land, whether for trade, transport or warfare, and the capacity for fishing. The earliest representation of a ship under sail appears on a painted disc found in Kuwait dating between 5000 and 5500 BCE.
Polynesian oceanfarers traveled vast distances of open ocean in outrigger canoes using navigation methods such as stick charts. Advances in sailing technology from the Middle Ages onward enabled Arab, Chinese, Indian and European explorers to make longer voyages into regions with extreme weather and climatic conditions.
There were improvements in sails, masts and rigging; improvements in marine navigation including the cross tree and charts, of both the sea and constellations, allowed more certainty in sea travel. From the 15th century onwards, European ships went further north, stayed longer on the Grand Banks and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and eventually began to explore the Pacific Northwest and the Western Arctic.
Sailing has contributed to many great explorations in the world.