Learn the Lingo 

Sailing can sound like it has its own language, so what does it all mean?


AFT The back of the boat

ASTERN Behind the boat

BEAM Width of the boat

BEAT To sail upwind on a zigzag course

BLACK FLAG When hoisted, this disqualifies any sailors who prematurely crosses the start line

BOOM Horizontal spar that is attached to the bottom of the main sail and is used to help pull the sail in and out

BOW The front of the boat

BOWSPRIT A spar that comes out from the from of the boat

CATAMARAN A twin-hulled boat

CENTREBOARD Moveable board that comes out from below the hull and helps prevent sideways drift

CLOSE-HAULED To sail upwind with the sails fully pulled in

CREW An additional person on the boat who helps maintain the boats speed by controlling the sails. The crew is also responsible for flying the spinnaker and for helping with race tactics.

DINGHY A small sailing boat with a centreboard or dagger board

DNF An abbreviation used when a boat did not finish a race

DOWNWIND To sail away from the wind

DSQ An abbreviation meaning a boat was disqualified from a race

EASE To let out on a rope, as in to ease the sails

EBB A receding or falling tide

FOILS The rudder and centreboard/ keel

GENNAKER An asymmetric spinnaker

GUNWALE The side of the boat

GYBE To change direction by turning the stern of the boat through the wind

HALYARD A rope used to pull up a sail

HEAD TO WIND When the bow of the boat points into the wind

HEAD UP To sail closer to the wind

HEEL The way a boat tips to one side as it sails

HELM The person who steers the boat

HIKE To use crew weight to keep the boat flat by leaning out of the boat.

HOIST To raise a sail

HULL The body of the boat

IN IRONS Occurs when the front of the boat is pointing into the wind

JIB The smaller sail at the front of the boat

KEELBOAT A boat with a weighted keel below the hull, instead of a centre board/dagger board

KITE A spinnaker

KNOT Measurement of speed referring to nautical miles per hour. Used to refer to boat speed and wind strength

LEE/ LEEWARD The side of a boat furthest away from the wind; the sheltered side of a boat.

MAIN The principal sail on a boat

MAINSHEET The rope that adjusts the main

MONOHULL A single hulled boat

MULTIHULL A boat with more than one hull, like a catamaran

OCS On course side; used when a boat is over the starting line

ONE-DESIGN A class of boat that requires all boats to be identical

PLANE The skim over the water when the hull lifts out of the water

PORT The left side of the boat when facing forward

REACH Sailing across the wind

RUDDER A flat structure attached to the back of the boat and sits in the water and is used to help steer

SHEET Rope used to pull the sails in or out

SPINNAKER A large sail (symmetric or asymmetric in shape) used when sailing down wind

STARBOARD The right side of the boat when facing forwards

STERN The back of the boat

TACK To turn the bow of the boat through the wind

TILLER The handle used to move the rudder

TOE STRAPS Straps in the boat that crew can use to secure their feet

TRAMPOLINE The mesh area between catamaran hulls

TRANSOM The back of the boat

TRAPEZE A wire and harness system that allows crew to hike out while standing on the side of the boat

UPWIND Sailing towards/into the wind

WINDWARD The side of the boat closest to the wind


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