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Sailing Terminology

 Sailing Terminology

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Nautical terms differ greatly from day-to-day terms. Here are some of the most commonly used terms in sailing that you need to understand in order to fully enjoy the sport.


Aft

Also known as the stern, this term refers to the back of the boat.

Bow

The front of the boat.

Clew

The bottom of the sail that is facing backwards.

Ease

Easing refers to the act of letting out the sails.

Foot

Bottom of the sail.

Head

The highest, top-most part of the sail.

Head Up

Steer the boat’s direction towards that of the wind.

Head Down

Steer the boat’s direction away from that of the wind.

Helm

The helm is the object that one uses to steer the boat. It can be a wheel, in the case of larger boats or yachts, or a wooden stick on smaller boats.

Jibbing

Jibbing is a move where one turns the stern of the boat so that the wind changes from one side of the boat to the other. This technique is less commonly used than tacking.

Leech

Back-facing side of the sail, between the clew and the head.

Leeward

In the direction facing away from the wind.

Luff

The side of the sail between the head and the tack.

Point of Sail

Point of sail refers to the boat’s direction in relation to the wind. There are eight different types of points of sail.

Port

This refers to the left side of the boat, when the sailor is facing the bow. Left and right can be confusing in open waters and hence special terms are used to replace these terms.

Port Tack

Wind coming from the left side of the boat.

Shift

A shift refers to a change in wind direction. It can be both a temporary change or a continuous change.

Starboard

In nautical terms, the right side is known as the starboard. This applies when one is facing the bow.

Starboard Tack

Wind coming from the right side of the boat.

Tack

Forward-facing bottom of the sail.

Tacking

Tacking refers to a manoeuver that sees one turning the bow of the boat so that the wind direction changes from one side of the boat to the other. This move is also sometimes referred to as coming-about.

Trim

The opposite of ease, trim refers to bringing the sails back in.

Velocity Shift

A velocity shift is a change in wind speed. It can appear to be a change in wind direction initially.

Windward

In a direction that is facing the wind.


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