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Nautical Terms

Nautical Terms for The Ideal Crew and what they really mean.
by Jonathan Smith.

The following is an essential glossary of yachting terms and nautical phrases that all keen and young aspiring R class sailors should learn before venturing out onto the briny sea, so that Master and Crew can develop that intimate and intuitive teamwork to sail faster and better than they ever have before. However in the heat of battle it is also important that the crew can interpret what that ranting old Captain Bligh is screaming from the Masters position at the stern. Some commands require instant action or the Skippers panic may spread. Other commands can be safely ignored as the ramblings of a deluded and possibly drunk old fool. It is important that you as the Crew know what to do, after all the Skipper almost certainly doesn't.

Weather Conditions

  • "What's it look like?" Skipper has desperate hangover. Looks hopeful that racing is cancelled. Requires firm but sympathetic smack to the head with the heavy weather racing boom to bring to racing mode.
  • "What do you think?" Usually accompanied by pleading look, white eyeballs, nervous stench and whining voice. Skipper has severe cold feet. Show no mercy, say "25 knots gusting to 30. Looks great" and laugh maniacally.
  • "Looks like a nice breeze" Skippers glasses must be fogged up, as wind has just lifted all the water from the harbour and is on the way to dropping it in Sydney.
  • "Blowing a bit" Roar of wind only exceeded by Skippers nervous flatulence

Sailing Commands

"Out Out OUT" No. Surprisingly not a cricketing term nor an invitation to bail out. Serves no other useful purpose than to let the Crew know that the skipper is smugly hooked up and fully stretched out on the wire after tacking without warning. Implication is that crew should extricate himself from an intimate embrace with the leeward shroud so that Skipper can devote his superior intellect to contemplating a complete tactical plan for assuming control of the race. Crew can safely ignore this one.

"In In IN" Similar to "out out out" but in opposite direction. Skipper has triumphantly found the only hole in the wind in a raging 30 knot southerly and aging legs have ceased to function as boat rolls to windward. The ideal Crew will climb hand over hand along the bungy cord from that familiar windward trolling position he has been cast to, in vain attempt to prevent capsize. Also sometimes offered as encouragement to the for'ard hand at that urgent 'putting away the spinnaker' time from the senior strategic position of the poop deck. Pitch and volume will be inversely proportional to distance from amidships of inconsiderate US aircraft Carrier manoeuvring in channel.

STARBOARD!!! "Starboard Starboard STARBOARD" Another one of those terms that is profoundly useful. Usually expressed in threes and in ascending pitch and volume at benignly beaming and profoundly deaf trailer sailors who like to admire how skilfully those young R class blokes handle themselves in a bit of a blow.

"Weight " Like "out out out" above. Skipper is calmly requesting crew to move from the 'stowing the spinnaker' resting place to the 'lying about on the wire' resting place. Ideal crew should stow spinnaker in 0.5 seconds and leap on the wire faster than Houdini so that Skipper can safely resume afternoon nap.

"Wait " Not to be confused with the above command from He Who Knows Best. Skipper is about to initiate breathtaking manoeuvre at close quarters. Telepathic Crew is expected to know that wait state is at an end when Skipper moves to opposite side of boat leaving crew strangled in the kicker on downhill side. The Ideal Crew should express suitable laudatory comments at completion of said masterful manoeuvre. F@#K! will not help foster that team bond we are looking for.

"Did you remember your gloves? " Usually in the form of a statement. Be warned. Skipper has installed 3mm racing catgut as kite sheet.

"Can you see the mark? ' Other forms such as 'where's the mark?', 'what mark?' and a genuinely puzzled 'where the hells is the Mark?' are all expressions of the Skippers deep desire to win and win handsomely. The well performed crew will respond with a concise and lucid appraisal of your current position, course and relative bearing to the next mark as well as the tactical status of the closest four yachts.

"Ready to gybe " This is not a question. Crew should know that Skipper is thinking about gybing. Occasionally this progresses to the full 'Gybing' but more often than not Skipper is 'testing the water' with the crew. A stoic refusal to respond to this command will ensure that skipper gives away this idea until current 30 knot gust has eased.

"We're going to Gybe " Skipper really means it this time Crew must stop wailing or next command will be lost.

"Gybing " Taken at speed on a flat bit of water, one of the best feelings next to sex or a free dinner on Bowie. Skipper will explain this to you from his comfortable position on the centreboard as Crew flounders in 1 tonne of wet spinnaker from lowly water position while sharks contemplate a speculative chew on those sticky out bits.

"Bearing away " The adroit crew will be expected to ease the jib, lift the board, and set the kite all from that weight inducing back corner perch so beloved of the Skipper.

"I'm coming out " Has nothing to do with disclosure of Skippers jaded personal habits. Skipper in rush of blood has decided to leave the security of the cockpit and join you on the wire downwind. Blank look of terror should be avoided until speed wobbles are over, after all the hardest part is yet to come. Getting back in.

If you enjoyed this check out our Beginners Guide to sailing R Class