Difference between Leeward and Windward

Leeward and windward are two different terms which are used to demonstrate the direction or orientation of the wind with respect to one’s own position or any another reference. Leeward is referred to as the side opposite to which the wind is blowing; whereas, windward means the direction in which the wind is blowing.

Both these terminologies are used quite often in sailing, where the motion and the speed of the boat is totally dependant on the direction of the wind. Normally for higher speeds, sailors need to have the wind at their backs, and for making a sudden turn or twist, they need to adjust the sail in the direction opposite to wind, i.e. the leeward direction.

In an archipelago, leeward and windward are also used in reference to islands or different sides of a single island. These terms are also used in meteorology, civil and military aviation. Leeward and windward are considered to be the same as downwind and upwind in meteorology.

These terms are extremely important in naval warfare as well, which is the reason why they are extensively taught to the students in military and naval training schools.


  • 1


    Leeward is the direction downwind from the point of reference. The side of a ship which is towards the island is called as ‘lee side’. The movement of a leeward vessel is less manoeuvrable in normal circumstances as compared to a windward vessel, which is the reason why the former has the right of way over the latter according to the rule 12 of the International Regulations for preventing Sea collisions.

    The leeward side is usually the drier side as compared to the windward side, being protected from the prevailing wind by the elevation of the island.

  • 2


    Windward is basically the direction upwind from the point of reference. The movement of a windward vessel is more fluent in normal circumstances than a leeward vessel.

    In oceanic islands, leeward and windward nature is a crucial weather or climate defining factor.

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