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HomeSailing Terms

Glossary of Sailing Terms & Vocabulary

Indicates a position upwind of other competitors.

Indicates a position downwind of other competitors.

Another way to describe which Tack a particular boat is on.

Buoy Course 
Describes a short race marked by buoys.  It may be upwind/downwind or include a reaching leg.  Races may include more than one “lap” around the course.

By The Lee    Wind in coming directly over the stern.  An accidental jibe is likely…watch your head!

Close Hulled  The skipper wants to sail as close to the wind as possible.  Set Max Trim and move to the upwind side of the boat.

Distance Course  Describes a long race that likely includes all points of sail.

Ease  Let the sail out.

Horn  Sailboat races at PPYC are started using sound signals from a horn.  Often, a flag signal will accompany the sound.  The purpose of these signals is to coordinate a fair start for all competitors.  The sequence of sound signals will generally be similar to the following.

Knock  A wind shift that results in a downwind change of course.

Leeward (loo-ward) Weight  Move to the downwind side of the boat.

Lift  A wind shift that results in an upwind change of course.

Mark  An anchored marker that is part of the course to be sailed.

Max Trim  Refers to closest (tightest) trim position of a sail.  Each skipper may define Max Trim a different way.  Make sure to ask.

A separate, anchored marker that may appear next to the Upwind Mark.

One Design 
At PPYC there are several active One-Design fleets.  These racers sail identical boats (think NASCAR).   Competitors are finished in place by the Race Committee.  The One-Design fleets at PPYC are:

    Northstar 500
    S2 7.9
    Catalina 22 (C22)
    Vanguard 15

One minute warning 
1 blast indicates the start is one minute away.  Accompanied by lowering the Prep Flag.
Start:  1 blast indicates the race has started.  Accompanied by lowering the class flag.

Portsmouth Rating 
PPYC is also home to a Portsmouth fleet.  These competitors use handicaps to even the playing field for racing between boats of different design (think golf).  Handicaps are assigned according to the Portsmouth Yardstick.  Finishing places are calculated by the Race Committee using each boat’s Portsmouth Ratings, elapsed time and average windspeed.  Boats in this fleet can range from family cruisers to full-blown performance hulls.

Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF)  Often referred to as “perf.”  This is the name of a different system for handicapping sailboats.  Currently, we do not use PHRF at PPYC.

Pin  An anchored marker that indicates the end of the Start/Finish line.

Preparatory or Prep  1 blast indicates the sequence has started and there are 4 minutes until the start.  Accompanied by raising the Prep Flag.

Pursuit Start  Describes a start often used in less formal racing at PPYC.  One start sequence will be signaled for all boats.  Competitors will start a predetermined amount of time AFTER the final horn, based on their Portsmouth Rating.

Race Committee  The Race Committee is similar to a referee.  They set the course, ensure a fair start to all races and enforce the rules.  Working on a Race Committee is a great way to learn about racing.

Sequence  Refers to the Starting Sequence;  a series of signals that start a sailboat race.

Trim  Bring the sail in closer.

Trim To This  The Skipper will hold his course while the Trimmer(s) adjust to keep tell-tales flying.

Warning  1 blast at a pre-arranged time of day lets competitors know the starting sequence will begin in 1 minute.  Accompanied by raising the flag of the class being started.  In club races with a pursuit start and no flags, the warning horn will be a few short blasts.

Weight Up  Move to the upwind side of the boat.

*For a more complete description of regatta signals, click here.

RYA Sailing Jargon Buster - an excellent video explaining many sailing terms