SI Vault
September 15, 1958
A glossary of the nautical jargon you will hear during the races
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September 15, 1958

The Language

A glossary of the nautical jargon you will hear during the races

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The boats that will race for the America's Cup are called 12-METER SLOOPS, 12s for short. Though a 12 can sail a straight line away from the wind, or to LEEWARD, it cannot go directly upwind (WINDWARD, or TO WEATHER). Therefore, it zigzags, or TACKS (see below), as close as possible to the direction from which the wind is blowing, changing direction each time so that the windward side becomes the leeward side. When moving in this manner, the boat is BEATING, CLOSE-HAULED, or ON THE WIND; and when the wind is coming over the right (STARBOARD) side, the boat is on the STARBOARD TACK. When the wind is coming from the left (PORT) side, the boat is on the PORT TACK. A boat in the act of tacking to windward is COMING ABOUT or GOING ABOUT. A boat in the act of tacking downwind is JIBING. A boat can be on port or starboard tack whether it is beating, sailing a little farther away from the wind on a CLOSE REACH, straight across the wind on a BEAM REACH, still farther away from the wind on a BROAD REACH or in the same direction as the wind, BEFORE THE WIND.

Further guide to the gear and goings on aboard an America's Cup contender

BOW: front of boat
STERN: rear end of boat
ABEAM: straight out from side of boat
QUARTER: side of boat near the stern
AFT: toward the stern, or behind it
FORWARD: toward the bow
TOPSIDES: sides of the boat from the waterline to the deck
MAST: vertical pole supporting sails
BOOM: horizontal pole along bottom of sail
STAYS: wires from mast to bow or stern used for support of mast
LINE: general term for rope
HALYARD: line used for raising or lowering sails
SHEET: line used in adjusting angle of sails to wind
BLOCK: sailors' term for pulley
TRIM: adjust angle of sails to wind
LUFFING: shaking of sails that occurs when boat heads too far to windward or sails are improperly trimmed
TO REEF: to lessen a sail's area by gathering in and tying down part of the sail
POINTING: sailing as close into the wind as possible
RUNNING: sailing with the wind more or less astern
FALL OFF: turning off to leeward, or from the wind
HEAD UP: turn to windward, or towards the wind

BLANKET: when windward boat takes wind from leeward boat's sails
BACK WINDING: when one sail throws wind onto lee side of other sails
HEELING: when a boat leans over
KNOT: one nautical mile (6,080 feet) per hour