trim one's sails

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trim (one's) sails

1. To adapt oneself to new or altered circumstances. Following the attack, many politicians trimmed their sails and adopted a more aggressive stance on military action.
2. To spend less money; to decrease one's expenses. Our rent is much higher, so we've had to trim our sails a bit, but we love living in this area.
See also: sail, trim
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

trim one's sails

Modify one's stand, adapt to circumstances, as in His advisers told him to trim his sails before he alienated voters and bungled the election completely . This metaphoric expression alludes to adjusting a ship's sails to take full advantage of prevailing winds. [Late 1700s]
See also: sail, trim
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

trim one's sails, to

To modify one’s stand, adapting it to circumstances. Trimming a boat’s sails means simply to adjust them so as to take advantage of current wind conditions. The term was transferred to human affairs by 1800 or so, but may be obsolescent today. Lytton Strachey used it in Elizabeth and Essex (1928): “Burghley, trimming his sails to the changing wind, thought it advisable to take the side of Essex.”
See also: trim
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in periodicals archive ?
The agility to climb the rigging in raging storms, trim sails and undertake other dangerous tasks, was essential.
Aware of the strength and direction of the wind, an experienced sailor knows how to trim sails and adjust the centerboard in order to progress in the intended direction.
In Marseilles, here, it is very hot so we feel like we are at home and feeling quite relaxed." Trimmer Tahira Al Yahyaee was forced to surrender her place on board Team Al Thuraya Bank Muscat due to an injury, so Niall Myant, Oman Sail's keelboat coach, will stand in while Ibtisam Al Salmi, Raiya Al Habsi and Asrar Al Ajmi will work the bow and trim sails, with British sailor Liz Rushall calling tactics.
While businesses everywhere trim sails and cut costs in the face of the economic downturn, the BBC continues to suck in money like a vacuum, and demand more.
Historically sailing ships and yachts were manned by large crews, and racing yachts relied strictly upon man power to grind winches and trim sails. The development of electrical and hydraulic systems to power winches, furlers and even canting keels, and the acceptance of the fact that their use is necessary, has led to larger and larger yachts being able to race.
Owners of all kinds of boats, from dinghies to cruisers, will find HOW TO TRIM SAILS: DINGHIES TO OFFSHORE CRUISERS an easy, important reference now in its updated second edition.