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  Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 12:49 GMT 13:49 UK
America's Cup jargon
An alphabetical guide to common terms associated with the America's Cup.


Aft. At, near or towards the stern, or rear, of the boat.

Aerofoil. Object in the shape of an aeroplane wing, designed to direct the flow of air smoothly over its surface.


Ballast. Weight in the keel of a boat, to add stability.

Battens. Rods inserted into a sail to improve its aerodynamic shape and to stop the leech flapping.

Beam. A term used to describe a boat's width.

Bear-away-set. To hoist and set a spinnaker without gybing.

Beating. To sail a zigzag course into the wind.

Boom. A pole or spar extending horizontally from the mast, which holds the base of the mainsail.

Bow. The front of the boat.

Buoy. An anchored float usually coloured orange serving as a navigation mark or mooring station.


Cleat. A metal or wooden-toothed device used to stop a rope from slipping.

Close Hauled. Sailing as directly into the wind as possible.

Coffee-grinder. Popular name for a two-handled winch mounted on a pedestal.


Downwind. Sailing with the wind behind you.

Drag. The amount of friction against the air and water.

Draught. Vertical distance from water line to bottom of keel.


Easterly. A wind blowing from the east. Can be similarly applied to the other points of the compass.


Foredeck. The area of a boat's deck that is in front of the mast. Also a crew position.

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

Friction. For boats, it is the resistance created when water (or air) moves over the surface of the hull.

Furl. To fold or roll a sail and secure it to its main support.


Gennaker. An asymmetric spinnaker used in lighter breezes when sailing downwind.

Genoa. Often shortened to "jenny". A large headsail which overlaps the mast.

Gooseneck. The joint connecting the boom and the mast.

Gybe. To change a boat's course so that the stern moves through the wind.

Gybe-set. To gybe (usually around the windward mark) and simultaneously hoist the spinnaker.


Halyard. Rope used to hoist or lower sails.

Headsail. Sail flown between the mast and the bow of the boat. The headsail is attached to the forestay and acts like the boat's gears - the lighter the wind, the bigger the headsail.

Heel. The action of the boat leaning over due to the pressure of the wind.

Helm. The mechanism, a wheel or tiller, used to move the rudder and thus steer the boat. The skipper can also be called the helm.

Hull. The body of the boat.


Jib. Another name for a headsail.


Keel. A lead-filled bulb attached to the hull of a vessel giving a boat greater stability.

Kicking strap (or vang). The attachment from mast to boom, which keeps the bottom edge of the sail down, maintaining an aerodynamic shape.

Kite. Another name for the spinnaker.

Knot. A fastening made by looping a piece of string on itself and tightening it. Also, unit of speed equivalent to one nautical mile per hour.


Layline. An imaginary line describing the course on which a yacht can reach a mark without tacking or gybing.

Leech. Trailing edge of the sail.

Leeward. The side of the boat away from the direction from which the wind blows; the side sheltered from the wind. The opposite side is windward.

Luff. To change course towards the direction of the wind; also the leading edge of the sail.


Mainsail. The large triangular sail behind the mast.

Mast. Vertical spar that holds up the sails, also known as the rig.

Multi-hull. A yacht is no longer just a yacht. America's Cup boats are monohull - ie single hulled. Other boats have two hulls (catamaran) or three (trimaran).


Nautical mile. One minute (ie one sixtieth) of a degree of latitude; approx. 6076 feet - about 1/8 longer than the statute mile of 5280ft.


Overboard. Over the side or out of the boat, as in "Man Overboard!"


Port. The side of the ship that is on the left when one is facing forward. Opposite of starboard.

Port tack. When a boat is sailing with the wind blowing on its port side. Opposite of starboard tack.


Reaching. Sailing across the wind.

Reef. To reduce the area of sail available to the wind.

Rig. General term used to describe a boat's mast and sail combination.

Rudder. A flat blade hanging vertically below the waterline near the rear of the boat used for steering.

Runner. Wire that holds up the mast when sailing upwind. Must be transferred from side to side when tacking.

Running. Sailing downwind, with the wind directly behind you.


Sheet. Rope attached to the lower corner of the sails.

Sheet in/out. Tightening or slackening of the sheets to adjust the shape of the sails.

Shroud. Cable or rod that supports the mast sideways.

Spar. A thick, strong pole used for a mast or yard on a ship.

Spinnaker. A huge, billowing sail often referred to as a kite, which can be raised at the front of the boat in light winds to increase speed.

Starboard. The right side of the boat when facing forward.

Stern. The rear of the boat.


Tack. Turning the bow of the boat through the wind and changing the sides of the sails. Also known as "going about".

Tender. A small boat used to transport equipment and crew from shore to a larger boat.

Traveller. A fitting that slides in a track and is used to alter the angle of the sheets.

Trim. To adjust the sails depending on the position and or strength of the wind.


Upwind. Sailing towards/into the wind.


VMG. Short for Velocity Made Good. It is the measure of the speed at which a boat is calculated to have sailed up or downwind.

VHF. Short for Very High Frequency, as in radio.


Wake. A trail of disturbed water left by a ship.

Winch. A device used to move sheets quickly and efficiently.

Windward. Facing the wind or the side of the boat facing the prevailing winds. Opposite to leeward.


Zephyr. A gentle breeze from the west.

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