The Sailing Vocabulary that you need the most.

As I talk to new sailors, instructing them on how to use their new boats, or future new boats. I get one comment repeatedly… “I don’t know the vocabulary.” Some people feel that’s important. I for one, being self-taught, did not know sailing vocabulary for many years after learning to sail. Let alone the racing rules. In my defense I did try to learn the racing rules, but I naturally started with rule # 1, when I should have started by reading the definitions for the rules. It was okay, I learned the rules as I went, and never seemed to piss anybody off too much. My point is that you don’t need to know what a shroud is right away, especially if you have a new boat. What you do need is a way to communicate the part or maneuver that you want to refer to. This is where it gets fun. We’re currently sailing the North American Championships on Long Island Sound in Westport, CT. While we can use exact terminology, on our boat, we use a quicker, easier to say definition.

I’m sailing with John Wake. We had a great time in big winds and waves yesterday, that we probably would not have been racing in, except for that the forecast for the rest of the week is abysmal. I think most people had smiles on their faces coming in, I know we did. Anyway, here’s the terminology that we’re using on our boat this week.

Pull the sail in = Clicky clicky

Outhaul = Oot Haul (I’ve been saying it that way since sailing as a kid with Ed Spengamen.

Cunningham = Ritchie (also a Ed Spengaman thing.)

Here’s a good one: Ease the jib, I’m getting a lift. = “Bring me up to it”

Then when I’m ready to come up, what do I say? Clicky clicky.

Downwind, when we get a puff, I ask the crew if we can “go down in it” or if I’m sure we can, I’ll say “down 5” or however many degree I estimate the turn is going to be. I ask my crew to ease the sheet while bringing the pole back, so that the spinnaker does not lose power as it rotates. In a big buff this maneuver can be a “down 20 maneuver” which is great for picking off boats and getting inside overlap. Of course, when the puff runs out, we have to “heal the boat to windward” and come back up for power or pull in the spinnaker.

Yesterday we were sailing in 3-5 foot waves, so “back” downwind very clearly meant drop everything and get to the back of the boat before we slam into this wave.

Upwind, we were putting the bow down into the waves and coming up in the flat spots, especially on starboard tack as the waves were setting up different. So, on starboard tack there was much “in” “out” communication. While from an entertaining blog stand point, this is where I should start talking about sexual innuendos that come up while sailing. Having so many ups and downs and in and outs, not to mention the pole.

Instead, I’ll tell you a bit about racing today. A day has gone by since I began writing this post, so we’re now sitting in 4th place. It was pretty light air yesterday. Our vocabulary mostly consisted of curse words as we rounded the windward mark in second to last. Which brings me to the final point. Don’t give up. We drifted back to ninth in a real nail biter. We were just going with our gut and sailing toward where we thought we might have seen an inkling of some wind on the water. Someone flew a spinnaker on the last windward leg. I don’t know what you call that move. However, don’t give up was our move, and although there was some luck. It would not have been possible if we had given up and quit trying.

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