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A sail in the backed position with the wind blowing on its wrong side.

Behind, toward the stern. Abaft the beam is the area between abeam and astern. Compare with aft.

Abandon ship
To leave a fatally distressed vessel. An abandon ship bag (grab bag) is a container of emergency and survival gear pre-prepared by the crew to take with them if they must abandon ship, usually containing tools, water, VHF radio, flares, food etc.

At right angles to the boat

Towards or at the back of the boat.

Apparent wind

The wind that blows over the boat modified by the boat's forward progress. The wind direction felt on the boat as it moves, a combination of the true wind blowing over the land, and the wind created by the boat's movement relative to the land.

Behind the boat

Asymmetric Spinnaker
A downwind sail, flown from the bow of a boat, often from a short bowsprit. Sometimes called A-sail and, incorrectly, gennaker. Asymmetric spinnakers can only be flown one way round, i.e. with one dedicated corner, the tack, attached to the spinnaker pole or the bowsprit, one dedicated corner, the head, attached to the halyard, one dedicated corner, the clew, attached to a sheet.

Across the beam of the boat

To pull a sail against the wind so that it fills on the wrong side. Also to force the boat to sail backwards – back down - by pushing the sails back against the wind so that weed or other debris might be washed off the keel or rudder.

Stay between the top of the mast and the stern.

A warm hood which covers the head except the face.

Bare headed

Without a headsail hoisted. Bare headed change, changing headsails where one sail is completely lowered and removed before another is hoisted - very slow

An instrument which measures the air pressure in millibars

Thin strips of composite material inserted into a pocket in a sail to support the curved leech of the sail.

Width of the boat at the widest point. Also the side of the boat (e.g. 'wind on the beam' means the wind is coming sideways onto the boat).

Bear away
Turn downwind, to bear away from the wind.

Sail a zigzag course to make progress into the wind. It is impossible for a boat to sail directly into the wind, tacking is like climbing the stairs when you want to go to bed.

Berth (bunk)
Bed on board

Beaufort scale
Way of measuring wind strength from Force 1 to Force 12 etc


A pulley used for changing the direction of a line or in making up a simple system to multiply the force applied to a line. See Tackle.

Spar (rigid pole) at the bottom edge of a sail, generally the mainsail.

Front of the boat.

Crew member who is responsible for most things that happen forward of the mast. Rigs the gear for spinnakers and for headsail changes, is usually the one whisked up the rig if anything goes wrong. Usually seen wearing a climbing harness over all his sailing gear and carrying strapped thereto rolls of tape, spikes, knives, karabiners, snap shackles, sail ties etc.

Useful knot, when tied forms a secure loop in a rope.

A projecting spar extending from the bow of a boat, generally used in modern times to fly an asymmetric spinnaker. Volvo Open 70s have 1.82m long carbon fibre bowsprits on which to fly their A-sails.

Metal construction on teeth, also an antipodean term for the line from the windward corner of a spinnaker used to control the position of the spinnaker pole.

Uncontrolled, sudden alteration of course usually when sailing fast downwind.

Broach Reach
When the Wind is between 90 and 150 degrees off the bow.

A torpedo shaped construction fastened at the bottom of the keel foil.

Floating object anchored to the bottom of the sea - some are for navigation, some are for mooring to, others are set temporarily to mark out a race course.

Buoyancy aid
Helps you to stay afloat if you fall in the water.

Canting Keel
A canting keel is hinged at the bottom of the hull and canted from side to side by massive hydraulic rams. This enables the crew to swing the ballast bulb to the windward side to counteract the forces of the sails trying to heel over the boat.

Strong and stable material used in the hull and rudders. Carbon has the same characteristics as Kevlar, but is even lighter and stiffer.

Free-flying corner of a sail, usually closest to the stern, to which the sheet is attached

Close hauled
Sailing as near to the wind as you can with the sails pulled in as tightly as possible

Close reach
When the wind is between 35 and 90 degrees off the bow.

The lowered portion of the deck, from the stern and forward where the crew work.

Code Zero
A special light air sail, which measures in as a spinnaker but is actually a huge genoa.

Crash Gybe
When the boat gybes without the crew being prepared.

The team who sail the boat. In the case of the Volvo Open 70, the full complement of 11 people who sail the boat, including the skipper, navigator, helmsmen, trimmers, pitmen, mastmen, bowmen and media crew member.


Crosswind is the measure of whether you are ahead or behind another boat that has leverage, when you're sailing upwind or downwind. It's actually pretty simple - just a line drawn through your own bow, at a right angle to the True Wind Direction (TWD). If you are going upwind, then anyone upwind of that line is ahead of you, and anyone downwind of that line is behind.

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