America's Cup 2003

America's Cup
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Wednesday, October 16
Updated: February 21, 5:43 PM ET
Glossary of sailing terms

By Gary Jobson
Special to

Aft:Toward the rear of the yacht.

Apparent Wind: The perceived wind direction of a moving yacht. When the yacht goes faster, the perceived wind direction moves forward, just as the wind always seems to hit a car only from head-on as it drives at high speeds.

Backstay: A mast support that runs from the top of the mast to the stern of the yacht; it may be adjustable in order to bend the mast backward or to increase tension on the forestay.

Ballast: Weight in the keel of a boat to add stability (righting moment).

Beam: A boat's greatest width.

Beating: Sailing (or pointing) at an angle into the wind or upwind. Since sailboats cannot sail directly into the wind, "beating" is the closet course to the wind they can sail.

Berth: a) The place where you but the boat on a dock. b) bunk or sleeping quarters.

Bilge: The lowest part of a boat's hull.

Block: A deck or track-mounted pulley device through which ropes such as jib and genoa sheets are strung.

Boom: A spar to which a sail's lower edge or "foot" is attached. The boom is attached to the mast at the gooseneck.

Bosun's Chair: A seat, usually made of canvas, used to hoist a person up the mast.

Bow: The front of the boat.

Bowman: The crewmember in charge of sail changes and keeping a lookout on the bow at the start.

Broach: When a keelboat sailing on a run capsizes from a strong puff of wind or gets knocked down by a wave. Also called a Knockdown or a Wipeout.

Bulb: The lead-torpedo shape on the bottom of the keel.

Bulkhead: A partition to strengthen the frame of a yacht.

Buoy: A marker used for navigation, mooring, or racing around.

Cam Cleat: A mechanical cleat used to hold a line automatically. It uses two spring-loaded cams (teeth) that come together to clamp the line, which is placed between them.

Capsize: To turn upside down.

Chainplates: The metal or composite attachments for shrouds and stays. Part of the hull, connecting the hull with the rig.

Chute: A spinnaker.

Cleat: A fitting, typically with projecting ends, that holds a line against the tension from the sails, rigging or mooring.

Clew: The lower corner of a mainsail, jib or genoa and either lower corner of a spinnaker attached to the sheet.

Cockpit: A recessed area in the deck in which the crew works.

Code 0: A tight luff, upwind spinnaker developed by EF Language during the 1997-98 Whitbread race, also called "the Whomper".

Compass: An instrument that uses the earth's magnetic field to point to the direction of the magnetic North Pole; used by navigators to determine the direction a yacht is heading and to set a course.

Course: The direction a yacht is sailing.

Crew: The team of sailors that sails the yacht.

Dacron: A white woven sailcloth made of polyester fiber. Brand name by DuPont.

Dead Downwind: Sailing straight with the wind.

Deck: Horizontal surface or platform of a yacht.

Delaminating: A failure of the bond between either of the hull's outer and inner skins, and the "sandwich" spacing material in between-allowing either of the two outer layers to become unstuck from the core.

Dismast: To lose, through breakage, part or all of the mast.

Doldrums: An area between the weather systems of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres characterized by frustrating light winds, major shifts in wind direction and sudden violent squalls.

Downwind: The point of sail when the wind blows from aft of the yacht's beam.

EPIRB: Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. There are two types of beacon. One is a transmitter that all commercial vessels are required to have on board. Pleasure crafts are recommended to carry one. The second type is a personal EPIRB that sailors wear on themselves, either as a watch, within their clothing, or around their neck so they can be located should they be washed overboard.

Equator: Line of latitude at 0 degrees -- equal distance from both poles.

Foot: The bottom edge of a sail.

Foredeck: The area of a yacht's deck that is in front of the mast; also a crew position aboard a racing yacht.

Foresail: Any sail used between the mast and the forestay.

Forestay: A mast support that runs from the top of the mast, or near the top of the mast, to the bow.

Fractional Rig: A rig where the headstay does not go to the bottom of the mast.

Furious Fifties: An area between 50 degrees and 60 degrees latitude noted for very strong winds and huge seas.

Galley: Kitchen.

Gennaker: A cross between a genoa and a spinnaker, a foresail used for reaching.

Genoa: A large foresail that overlaps the shroud base used for sailing upwind; also called a "genny."

GPS: Global Position System. Satellite navigation, which gives yachts exact latitude and longitude position. The update race is one second.

Guy: A rope used to adjust the position of a spinnaker pole.

Gybe: See Jibe.

Gooseneck: The mechanical device connecting the boom and the mast.

Halyard: A line used to hoist and hold up a sail.

Head: a) Toilet/Basin/Shower. b) The top corner of a sail that is connected to the halyard.

Header: A wind shift during which the wind enters the boat more forward.

Headsail: A sail flown between the mast and the bow of the yacht.

Helm: The steering station of a yacht; the tiller or wheel by which the rudder is controlled.

Helmsman: The crewmember who steers the yacht; usually also the skipper; also called the "driver."

Hounds: The attachment points for the shrouds up the mast.

Hull: The body of a yacht.

Inmarsat-C: A digital store and forward messaging service, using satellites for transmission.

Jib: A foresail that fits in between the forestay and the mast.

Jibe: The process of turning the yacht so the stern turns through the wind, thereby changing the side of the yacht on which the sails are carried (opposite of tacking); also spelled gybe.

Jury-rig: Emergency rigging with available gear, usually due to a broken mast.

Keel: A ballasted appendage projecting below the boat that keeps it from capsizing, which also supplies the hydrodynamic lateral force that enables the boat to sail upwind.

Kevlar: Man-made, yellow/brown aramid fiber that is used to make sails or composites for building hulls. In sails it retains its shape better and is lighter than Dacron, but is more expensive. Kevlar is the brand name from DuPont and is also used in bullet-proof jackets. It loses its good properties when exposed to the sun for extended periods of time.

Kite: A spinnaker.

Knockdown: See Broach.

Knot: a) One nautical mile per hour. b) Connection of lines.

Latitude: Angular distance north or south of the equator, measured from 0 to 90 degrees north or south.

Layline: An imaginary line projecting at an angle corresponding to the wind direction from either side of a racecourse marker buoy that defines the optimum sailing angle for a yacht to fetch the mark or the finish line. When a yacht reaches this point, it is said to be "on the layline." Going beyond the layline means the yacht is sailing a greater distance to reach the mark or finish line.

Leech: The trailing edge of a sail.

Leeward: Away from the wind. A leeward yacht is one that has another yacht between it and the wind (opposite of windward).

Life Raft: An inflatable craft into which the crew of a yacht transfers if the yacht intends to sink.

Lifelines: Cables that are held in place by stanchions and go around the boat to prevent people from falling overboard. A "fence" around the boat on the edge of the deck.

Lift: A wind shift during which the wind enters the boat from further back. It allows the helmsman to head up or alter course to windward, or the crew to ease the sheets.

Lines: A nautical term for ropes.

Longitude: Angular distance east or west of the Greenwich Meridian, measured from 0 t 180 degrees east or west.

Luff: a) To change course toward the wind. b) The leading edge of a sail.

Mainsheet Trimmer: A device that controls the position and shape of the mainsail, the large triangular sail behind the mast.

Mast: The vertical spar that holds up the sails.

Mastman: The crewmember who works the lines on the mast when hoisting sails, and who assists the bowman with the work on the foredeck.

Masthead Rig: A rigging scheme in which the forestay is attached near the top of the mast. See Fractional Rig.

Match Racing: A racing format where only two yachts compete at a time, like a boxing match, as opposed to "fleet racing" where more yachts sail at once.

Maxi: A boat designed to the maximum rating allowed under the International Offshore Rule, or more recently, the international measurement system.

Nautical Mile: The unit of geographical distance used on "salt-water" charts. 1 nautical mile corresponds exactly to 1 minute of angular distance on the meridian (adjacent left and right side of a sea chart). This facilitates navigation as it avoids a complicated conversion from angle to distance. 1 nautical mile equals 1.852 kilometers. 60 minutes equal 1 degree.

Navigator: The crewmember who monitors the yacht's location and progress relative to the racecourse and the other yachts.

Off the Wind: Sailing away from the wind, also downwind, reaching or running.

Peeling: Changing from one spinnaker to another.

Pitch-poling: Putting the bow into a wave and cart-wheeling forward.

Pitman: Crewmember who controls the halyards and mast winches and assists the mastman.

Pole: The spinnaker pole.

Port: Nautical term for the left side of a yacht when facing forward.

Port Tack: Sailing with the wind blowing onto the port side and the mainsail on the starboard side.

Reaching: All angles against the wind that are not beating or dead downwind. A close reach has the wind forward of abeam; a beam reach is when the wind is perpendicular to the boat; and a broach reach is when the wind is aft of abeam.

Rig: The general term used to describe a yacht's mast and sail combination.

Rigging: The wires, lines, halyards, and other items used to attach the sails and the spars to the boat. The lines that do not have to be adjusted often are known as standing rigging. The lines that are adjusted to raise, lower, and trim the sails are known as running rigging.

Roaring Forties: The area between 40 degrees and 50 degrees latitude noted for strong winds and large seas.

Running: Dead downwind.

Sat-phone: A satellite telephone. Unlike cellular phones that relay on networks of local antennae, sat-phones send and receive their signals directly to and from orbiting satellites. Though significantly more expensive than cellular phones, with calls costing from $4 to $9 a minute, sat-phones can operate from almost anywhere on earth.

Screaming Sixties: The area between 60 degrees and 70 degrees latitude noted for exceptionally strong wind, huge seas, and frequent icebergs.

Sheet: A line that controls sails and adjusts their angle of attack and their trailing edge.

Shroud: A cable or rod that supports the mast sidewise. Shrouds run from the chainplates at deck level on the port and starboard side, to the hounds just below the top of the mast.

Sked: A position report issue every 6 hours.

Skipper: The person in charge of a vessel.

Southern Ocean: The ocean surrounding the Antarctic continent. The largest uninterrupted water on the earth with the most dynamic weather systems, the highest waves, and the strongest winds (apart from tropical storms).

Spinnaker: A large ballooning sail that is flown in front of the yacht when the wind comes from aft of abeam. Spinnakers are used when running or reaching, sailing downwind. Also called Kite or Chute. The head is pulled to the top of the mast, using the halyard; the tack is at the spinnaker pole, projecting it away from the yacht; and the clew is connected to the sheet, trimming the sail.

Spinnaker Pole: A pole that is attached to the lower front of the mast to hold one corner of a spinnaker out from the yacht. On high-performance yachts, spinnaker poles are usually made of strong but lightweight carbon fiber composite material. When a spinnaker is not being flown, the pole is tethered to the deck.

Squall: The sudden, short-term burst of wind with passing clouds. May be accompanied by rain.

Stanchions: Vertical poles that stand on the outer edge of the deck to hold the lifelines.

Standing Rigging: The non-moving rods and lines that support the mast and sails.

Starboard: Nautical term for the right half of the yacht when facing forward.

Starboard Tack: Sailing with the wind blowing onto the starboard side, and the mainsail on the port side.

Staysail: A small sail flown between the mast and the inner forestay.

Stay: A rod or wire that supports the mast in a fore/aft position.

Stern: The rear of the boat.

Tack: a) The process of turning the bow of the yacht through the wind and changing the sides of the sails. b) The lower corner of a sail that is attached to the yacht.

Tiller: Traditionally the piece of wood the helmsman holds to control the rudder. Now it can be made of aluminum, titanium or a composite material in order to save weight.

Top: The high end of the mast.

Trade Wind: Northeast and southeast winds in the Atlantic blowing continually toward the equator. Named after the traditional trading ships, which sailed a course using these winds to their advantage.

Transom: The flat rear end of a boat, the upper part of which tends to lean forward on modern racers.

Trim: To adjust the sail to make it the right shape and angle to the wind.

Trysail: A triangular loose-footed sail fitted aft of the mast, often used to replace the mainsail in heavy weather.

Upwind: Sailing against the wind at an angle a certain yacht can achieve.

Velocity Made Good (VMG): The speed of a yacht relative to the waypoint it wants to reach, or toward or away from the wind.

Watches: Teams within which the crew operates, taking turns to work, sleep and eat.

Watch Leader/Captain: The person in charge of a watch.

Watertight Hatch: Watertight doors. In the event of a hull breach, the hatches can be closed to seal off compartments on the affected portion of the boat.

Waypoint: A specific location as defined by GPS, the Global Positioning System.

Winch: A device used to give a mechanical advantage when hauling on the lines.

Winch Pedestal: An upright winch drive mechanism with two handles to increase purchasing power.

Windward: Against the wind.

Wipeout : See Broach.

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