Sailing Glossary

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Sailing is filled with tradition, excitement and fun.

It is one of those rare sports that really has changed very little over the past century. The boats have improved, of course, but the sport itself has remained largely the same. Were glad that you decided to get your start in sailing by learning how to sail the Hobie way, and we hope that you keep the initial thrill of learning all through your sailing years. The sailing community is a fraternity of sorts. We believe that you have gotten one of the best initiations into this fraternity by learning to sail with us. Remember, there is no such thing as the sailor who knows everything. Don’t feel embarrassed if you make mistakes. Just have fun and learn from them. The more you learn, the more you’ll enjoy your new sport.

Aft: toward the stern

Back: to push sails out so wind pushes boat backward

Backwind: to push sails out so wind pushes boat backwards

Batten: a thin wooden or fiberglass strip placed in pockets of a sail to help hold its form

Bear: to move in a certain direction—to “bear up” is to turn windward; to “bear off“ is to turn to leeward; to “bear down on” is to approach another boat from windward

Beat: to sail windward

Boom: spar at the foot of the mainsail

Boomvang: a line used to hold boom steady for offwind sailing

Bow: the forward part of the boat

Broach: to swing broadside to a following sea or surf—a dangerous maneuver

Capsize: to turn over

Cleat: a fitting to which ropes are tied

Clew: the lower back corner of a sail

Close Hauled: sailing as close to the wind as possible

Come About: to tack (See “Tack”)

Downhaul: a line for hauling down a sail to give it more effective shape while hoisted

Downwind: sailing with the wind aft

Foot: the bottom edge of a sail

Fore: the forward part of a boat

Fore-and-aft: lengthways of a boat

Furl: to roll and tie a sail on a boom

Gooseneck: fitting connecting the boom to the mast

Grommet: a metal ring set into material for a line to attach to or through

Gybe: to cause sails to swing over to opposite side when wind is aft (also spelled jibe)

Halyard: a line used to hoist a sail

Head: the top corner of a sail

Heading: the direction of boat’s travel

Head Off: to turn boat away from the wind

Headstay: the forward wire supporting the mast

Head-to-wind: bow headed into the wind, sails luffing

Head Up: to turn boat toward the wind

Helm: the rudder or tiller steering the boat

Hike: to climb or lean out to keep the boat flat

Hiking Straps: straps under which the sailor tucks his feet to facilitate his leaning backwards out over the rail for better balance and safer sailing

In Irons: when tacking, a boat that will not come about but lies head-to-wind is said to be “in irons”

Leach: the after edge of a sail

Lee: the side of the boat away from the wind; opposite of weather

Leeward: direction away from the wind; opposite of windward

Leeway: drift sideways due to wind pressure

Luff: to head a boat into the wind; the forward edge of a sail

Luffing: flapping of sails as they fail to draw wind

Luff Rope: the rope sewed to the luff of a sail

Line: the common expression for a rope in use

Mast: vertical spar on which a sail is rigged

Masthead Fly: device for telling wind’s direction

Off The Wind: sailing any course except one to windward, which is called “on the wind”

Outhaul: a line used to haul the clew of a sail out to the end of the boom

Pinch: to sail a boat too close to the wind

Pointing: sailing close to the wind

Port: the left side of a boat, opposite of starboard

Rake: the amount a mast leans fore or aft

Reaching: sailing with the wind free, between sailing close hauled and running, close reach—wind forward of abeam; broad reach—wind aft of abeam; beam reach—wind abeam

Reef Points: a series of grommets through which short pieces of line are tied, located several inches above and running parallel to the boom used for reducing the area of the mainsail in heavy winds

Rigging: all the lines and wires of a boat; standing rigging—supports a mast; running rigging—controls sails

Righting Line: line used in righting capsized boat

Rudder: the blade which steers a boat; controlled by a tiller

Shackle: U-shaped fitting with a removable pin, used for securing halyards to sails, etc.

Sheet: rope used to control the sail

Shrouds: wires supporting the mast from the side

Spars: masts, booms

Starboard: the right side of a boat; opposite of port

Step: to set a mast in position

Stern: the back part of a boat

Tack: (“come about”): to change course so as to bring the wind on the opposite side of the sail by first heading into the wind; opposite of jibe; also the forward lower corner of a sail

Telltale: a short piece of ribbon tied to the shrouds on boats to indicate the wind direction and also to the sail to help trim the sail

Tiller: a bar connected with the rudder head; using this bar moves the rudder as desired

Traveller: metal track and car used for trimming mainsail

Traveller Car: car on the traveller to which mainsheet is attached

Trim: to set the sails at the correct angle to the wind

Upwind: toward the wind

Vang: a line to steady the boom when off the wind

Weather: toward the wind; same as windward

Windward: toward the wind; opposite of leeward

End of Article

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