A High and Dry Glossary to the America’s Cup

Fifteen must-know terms for first-time America’s Cup viewer

By The Editors

15 Must-Know Sailing Terms for First-Time America’s Cup Watchers
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05 April 2016

The chances of you in a boat on Lake Michigan this summer: depends on who you know and your current boat-owning status.

The chances of you catching a qualifier for the world’s most famous sailing event on Lake Michigan this summer: guaranteed.

Because the America’s Cup World Series is coming, and tickets are on sale at this very moment. Fancy waterfront festivals and the idea of million-dollar racing yachts swapping paint at life-threatening speeds? You should probably jump on them now.

America's Cup World Series Chicago"We don't have mountains. We don't have deserts. We have 18 miles of freshwater playground."1:38

You should care because this is the first time in the 165-year history of the competition that it will be contested on freshwater. And because the America’s Cup itself is the world’s oldest international sporting trophy. And because fat cats like Larry Ellison spend hundreds of millions of dollars in pursuit of that trophy.

The big race goes down in Bermuda in 2017. But before that come a circuit of qualifying races known as the World Series.

That’s where Chicago comes in.

In addition to a weekend of live racing, Navy Pier will be home to a waterfront festival complete with a grandstand viewing area and fan zone. You’ll find all the info you need on the festivities here, including the lowdown on the exclusive on-the-water vendors you’ll want to scope out (the Beer Garden with live music also has our attention).

And seeing as this is Chicago’s first time hosting, we’ve compiled a few essential terms that’ll come in handy for any first-time spectators.

AC45
All America’s Cup World Series events are raced on AC45 catamarans, incredibly lightweight foiling, wing-sailed catamarans that can reach speeds of up to 50 knots.

AFT
Towards the rear of the boat.

AMERICA'S CUP TROPHY
The oldest trophy in international sport (founded in 1851), awarded to the winner of the America’s Cup match races between challenger and defender (aka the reigning champ, aka Oracle Team USA).

CAPSIZE
When a boat is either turned on its side or upside. Results can be fatal.

CATAMARAN
A watercraft, like the AC45, featuring two parallel twin hulls.

FLEET RACING
What differentiates the America’s Cup World Series and the America’s Cup. The World Series features fleeting racing, meaning all teams compete on the same course at the same time. One-on-one competition, known as “match racing,” will be hosted in Bermuda in 2017.

GENNAKER
A speciality sail used on America’s Cup boats that combines the best feature of a Genoa jib and a spinnaker.

HULL
The main body of the sailing vessel.

HYDROFOILING
The reason why America’s Cup racing is so astonishing. With enough speed, boats that use hydrofoil technology (wing-like structures mounted below the hull) actually lift out of the water at tremendous speeds.

JIBING
A maneuver that changes direction by turning away from the wind, which thereby changes the side of the boat on which the sails are carried. Since it’s impossible to sail through the wind, this is done in a zigzag pattern. The opposite of tacking.

KNOT
Unit of speed equal to one nautical mile per hour.

LEEWARD
Away from the wind. The yacht farthest from the wind is the “leeward yacht.”

PORT
Facing forward, the left-hand side of the boat.

STARBOARD
Facing forward, the right-hand side of the boat.

TACKING
A maneuver that changes direction direction by turning into the wind. The opposite of jibing.

Photos: Couresty of America's Cup

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