Sailing Terminology


For a PDF version click on Sailing’s Terminology.

Port Tack = when you have the wind on your port side. The left side on the boat looking forward is the port side and red is the color for port. (….there’s a little bit of port left in the bottle)
Starboard Tack = when you have the wind on your starboard side (right). Green is the color for starboard
Aft = At or near the stern or back of the boat
Astern = Behind or near the back of the boat
Illustration of terms for different parts of a sail boat
Batten = Strips of wood or plastic supporting the sail’s shape
Beam = Maximum width of boat
Bear away = Turn the boat away from the wind
Block = Pulley
Boom = Support for the foot or bottom of the main sail
Boom Vang = Pulley for pulling down the foot of the sail
Bow = Front of the boat
Centreboard = plate below the boat that stops you sliding sideways
Cleat = Grip type fitting to secure ropes. There’s different types
Clew = Lower corner of the sail, nearest the back of the boat
Current = Water Flow produced by the movement of water
Down Wind = Away from the wind
Drag = Resistance of the boat moving through the water or air
Foils = Collective term for centreboard and rudder
Foot = Lower edge of a sail
Forestay = Wire leading from the near the top of the mast to the Bow that holds the mast up
Gooseneck = Swivel fitting on the mast to which the boom is attached
Goose-wing = when the jib is set on the opposite side of the boat to the mainsail when sailing down wind
Gunwhale = the edge of the boat, on which you may sit
Gybe = To turn the stern through the direction of the wind
Halyard = Rope or wire used to hoist and lower a sail
Head-to-wind = Pointing directly into the wind
Heel = Angle at which the boat tips or leans when sailing
Jib = Smaller forward sail
Leech = Aft (back) edge of sail
Leeward = The side away from the wind
Leeway = Sideways drift produced by wind and current
Luff = Forward edge of a sail
Luff up = To turn the boat towards the wind
Mainsail = Larger sail set on the mast
Mainsheet = Rope used for trimming mainsail
Mast = Vertical spar supporting the sails
No go zone = Area into which a boat cannot sail directly into the wind
Outhaul = Rope used to tension the foot of the sail by pulling it out
PFD = Personal Flotation Device (Life jacket)
Pinching = Sailing too close to the wind and slowing the boat
Reaching = Sailing across the direction of the wind
Reef = To reduce the size of the sails in strong winds
Running = Sailing with the wind
Sheet = Rope used to trim (adjust) a sail
Sheet in = To pull on the sheet adjusting the position of the sails
Sheet off = To ease out the sheet
Shrouds = Wires at the side of the boat to attach the mast
Spinnaker = Large lightweight triangular sail, often coloured for off wind sailing
Tack = Turning the bow of the boat through the wind
Tide = A rise or fall in water level produced by gravitational pull on the earth’s surface
Tiller = Lever attached to the tiller to allow the skipper to sit on the gunwale and still steer the boat
Trim the sails = Adjusting the sails in and out as the wind changes direction and strengths
Upwind = Towards the wind
Windward = Side close to the wide