Basic sailing terms

15 common sailing terms to learn

We’ve compiled a list of 15 the most basic sailing terms that everyone should know before they even consider taking to the water. Sailing has so many terms that it’s likely that only the saltiest of sea dogs would know them all, but knowing these ones will be a great start.

Aft – toward the stern, or back, of the boat.

Basic sailing terms

Boom – the horizontal pole which extends from the bottom of the mast. Adjusting the boom towards the direction of the wind is how the craft harnesses the power of the wind.

Bow – the front of the sailing craft.

Craft – a sail boat or board.

Class – the actual model of craft. For example, ‘Laser’, ‘470’ and ‘Finn’ are all classes of craft used in the Olympic sailing regatta.

Jibing – A basic manoeuvre which refers to turning the stern (rear) of the boat through the wind with the sails changing the side they fill on. The opposite of this is tacking (see below). Sometimes referred to as ‘gybing’.

Lashing – a rope used for securing any movable object in place.

Leeward – the direction opposite to the way the wind is currently blowing (see windward).

Port – the left side of a boat when looking forward towards the bow.

Rigging – ropes and wire stays of a boat that secure the masts and sails.

Rudder – a flat piece of wood, fiberglass, or metal located under the boat used to steer the craft.

Starboard – the right side of a boat when looking forward towards the bow.

Stern – the back of the sailing craft. Sometimes referred to as the aft.

Tacking – turning the bow (front) of the boat through the wind with the sails changing the side they fill on.

Windward – the direction in which the wind is currently blowing. Windward is the opposite of leeward.

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