Monday, April 14, 2008

Sailboat Terms

Sailing is an old and a complex art, and sailors can spend a lifetime at it and still find that there is more to learn. Here are some terms used specifically for sailboats. The wind is the most important element in sailing and there are special words to describe the wind. The wind VEERS when it shifts in a clockwise in a clockwise direction (such as south to southwest) and it BACKS counterclockwise. These variations in direction cause a sailboat to be Lifted (in direction) if the wind change is favorable to her course and HEADED if it is unfavorable. The wind is described by the direction from which it blows, a wind out of the northeast is a northeast wind.

The real direction and strength of the wind is the TRUE WIND, but this may not be the wind perceived aboard a boat while underway, because the true wind is combined with the boat's own speed and direction to form the APPARENT WIND. Apparent wind can be quite different from true wind, and is the more important wind to consider for sail adjustment or TRIM. Everything that the wind passes over has a WINDWARD and a LEEWARD side. The windward side is the part of the boat, island, or other object that the wind passes over first. If you look toward the wind you are looking to WINDWARD or to the WEATHER. The LEEWARD side is the protected side of a boat. A boat may be IN THE LEE of a island, or of another boat. TO LEEWARD may refer to DOWNWIND (down the the opposite is UPWIND, A boat may change course TOWARD THE WIND (when the bow moves UPWIND, or AWAY FROM THE WIND (when the bow moves downwind.

Points of Sailing

A sailboat moves downwind with fairly simple aero­dynamic forces, and is said to be RUNNING WITH THE WIND or SAILING FREE. Moving across the direction of the wind, a sailboat is REACHING, she may be on a BROAD REACH, a BEAM REACH, or a CLOSE REACH, these are the fastest points of sailing.
A sailboat cannot sail directly into the wind, but sails upwind by means of a process called TACKING, which is a series of course changes, or TACKS, that serve to work the boat in a zig-zag pattern toward her destination up­wind. If the wind is coming over the port side first. the sailboat is on the PORT TACK, no matter what her point of sail, and if the wind comes over her starboard side, she is on a STARBOARD TACK .

There are complex aerodynamic forces at work in WORK­ING TO WINDWARD. A well-designed and well-sailed boat is said to be WEATHERLY, or to POINT WELL, if she can sail to within 40° of the direction of the wind. A boat that sails as close to the wind as possible and still maintains her speed, is BEATING. She tends to HEEL noticeably on this point of sail-she leans steadily to leeward.
In going from a CLOSE HAULED course (a BEAT, close­hauled because the sails are hauled in "close" to the cen­terline of the boat) to a reach, a sailboat is said to FALL OFF the wind, and the helmsman tells the crew to let the sails out, or EASE them. This is TRIMMING the sails, the trim must be checked constantly and adjusted for fast, efficient sailing.
A sail is trimmed with a SHEET, the line used to haul it in closer to the wind, or ease it. whichever is best for the boat's course. A boat's sails may be OVERTRIMMED for a particular wind or course if they are held in too tightly, and either the angle of the sails to the wind must be changed, or the course of the boat must be adjusted, to trim correctly.

If the sails are out too far or the boat is pointing too close to the wind, the forward edges of her sails will shiver, or even shake violently, and this is called LUFFING. A boat cannot sail efficiently when her sails are luffing, and she will need a change of sail trim or a change of course before she can pick up speed. If the sails are close-hauled and the boat's course is too close to the wind, she will not be able to sail well, and she will be PINCHING, the remedy is to fall off a little, steering away from the wind or ease the sails a bit, so she will sail better.
Sometimes if the boat is running before the wind, sails well out, the helmsman may decide he'll get speed if he runs WING AND WING, for instance, the main out to starboard and the jib out to port. Skillful steering will be needed to keep the sails full and to avoid an accidental JIBE.