35th America's Cup Glossary Of Sailing Terms

Glossary of America’s Cup Sailing Terms

By: Learn To Sail, Sailing Fun

The America’s Cup is the absolute premier sailboat race in the world. It’s the sailor’s Superbowl. For the new sailors who are checking it out for the first time we have created this glossary to help you understand what the announcers are talking about so that you can better enjoy the coverage.

Some of these terms you’ll recognize from your 101 classes and text.

  • Anemometer
    A wind gauge that measure wind speed and direction.
  • Pressure
    From the onboard mics we hear skippers and tacticians talking about “pressure” which is simply areas where there is more breeze.
  • Squall
    In the semi finals between the British team and the New Zealand team the announcers made mention of an impending squall. According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology a squall is a “sudden, sharp increase in wind speed that is usually associated with active weather, such as rain showers or thunderstorms.” For the America’s Cup sailors it’s a curveball to contend with.
  • Daggerboard or “boards”
    Catamarans don’t have keels; instead they have daggerboards which allow them to make forward progress in the same way keels do.
  • Foils
    Foils are defined in different ways in the sport of sailing, but in this year’s America’s Cup, when the term is used, it refers to “L” shaped carbon fiber daggerboards that facilitate the entire boat rising up out of the water to essentially fly.
  • Stuffing It or Splash Down
    Basically when the boat drops off the foils and the hulls hit the water, usually in a very dramatic fashion that soaks the sailors.
  • Pitch pole
    The Kiwi team can tell us what this means. A pitchpole is when a boat capsizes stern over bow. It is usually the result of being extremely overpowered.
  • Turtling
    When a boat capsizes completely. When a boat “turtles” the boat is 100% upside down with mast pointing straight down to the sea floor.
  • Fly Time
    The amount of time the boat spends foiling – Team Emirates New Zealand was the first to sail around the course with 100% fly time, which means their hulls never touched the water!
  • Layline
    The angle required in order for the boat to successfully reach and go around a mark.
  • Starboard tack
    The tack where the wind is blowing FROM the starboard side of the boat. The port tack boat must give way to the starboard tack boat.
  • Port tack
    The tack where the wind is blowing FROM the port side of the boat. The port tack boat must give way to the starboard tack boat.
  • Boundary
    The edge of the official race course – sailing across the boundary will result in a penalty.

Laylines shown in yellow in the Virtual Eye Replay.

  • Pre-start
    The pre-start is an important part of a sailboat race. It is a time sequence where boats jockey for position and attempt to win the start. It employs many of the devices, rules and tactics that are involved in sailboat racing in a short amount of time.
  • Over early penalty
    If a boat crosses the line early there is a two-boat length penalty. It is marked by a blue light that is mounted on the stern of the boat that will illuminate upon any infraction.
  • Dialing Up
    Dialing up is mostly a starting tactic. It’s when one boat forces their competitor uncomfortably far up wind, which leaves them rather helpless and at a disadvantage.
  • Dialing Down
    Dialing down usually happens during crossing situations – the idea is to force the opponent downwind, driving them away from where they want to be.
  • Hunting
    When two boats are converging, but instead of holding course the starboard tack boat changes course directly towards the port tack boat forcing them to take action to avoid collision. This aggressive tactic is predominantly a match racing strategy.
  • Black-flagged
    The disqualification of a boat.
  • Split and Cover
    Around the marks at the top or bottom of course if the boats choose opposite directions it’s often referred to as a split, if they choose the same marks it’s a cover.
  • One & In
    Refers to the fact that a boat only has to make one more tack/jibe in order to make the next mark.

Splitting At The Top Mark © ACEA 2017 / Photo Ricardo Pinto

  • Sailing higher
    When you hear that a boat is “sailing higher” they are heading farther up towards the wind direction.
  • Speed build
    Typically the boat is sailing more off the wind than it should in order to build speed – something that is critical to make sure the boat gets up on the foils.
  • Wingwash
    When sailboats sail close to each other, one can affect the other’s quality of wind. The result of this change is sometimes called “wingwash.”
  • Gapping off
    Creating separation between boats, usually windward-leeward scenarios. Often employed during starting sequences.
  • “Bloody good!”
    What Ben Ainsle says when he wins…