When main tack avoids dunk, it gybes


SAN DIEGO -- To a lot of people, sailboat racing is a curious pastime, a tipsy business of pulling on ropes while trying to use the wind to your advantage.

So, it probably is not surprising that the language of sailing also is a foreign tongue to the masses.

The following is, after a fashion, a definition of America's Cup terms:

Boat -- Each team has one it may use during this series of races. The Italian boat is red, the American boat is white. Each is roughly 75 feet long and costs $5 million. Il Moro is a fast boat; America3 is a faster boat.

Mast -- Each boat may carry one 110-foot mast at a time. In the case of breakage, each team keeps spares. Mast changes are not attempted on the race course.

Mainsail -- Each team selects one for each racing day. Occasionally, mainsails are changed immediately before a race, but never during a race.

Genoa -- This is a large, triangular sail that is carried forward of the mast. It is an upwind sail and different genoa sails are selected for different conditions during a race.

Upwind -- This is the time a genoa is used, when a boat tries to get to a racing mark that has been placed a predetermined distance closer to the source of the wind than the starting line.

Tack -- When sailing toward the source of the wind, a series of zig-zag maneuvers angled into the face of the wind are necessary. Mechanically powered boats may move into the wind, sail-powered boats must sail diagonally across it. These are called tacks, and a continuation of tacks is called tacking.

Tacking duel -- When two racing boats are tacking, the trailing boat often tries to break way from the leading boat. The leading boat, worried that the trailing boat will find better wind and somehow get to the windward mark first, answers the challenge by countering every move the trailing boat makes. This can be very exciting, but usually, pistols at 20 paces are faster and more effective.

Slam dunk -- Michael Jordan is more adept at this move than most sailing skippers, but when a sailor pulls it off, the impact is just as devastating. Simply, a slam dunk is when one boat tacks so that it can achieve a position that will block the other boat's wind. Without wind, the other boat almost stops. This is an in-your-face move, and Il Moro slammed America3 in Race 2 on Sunday.

Downwind -- This is when a boat sails away from the source of the wind, with its mainsail set out to the side of the boat and the wind coming over the boat's stern.

Gennaker and spinnaker -- On a downwind leg, a gennaker or spinnaker replaces the genoa sail and is placed forward of the mast. The sail is controlled by ropes that attach to the corners of the sail and a pole that extends forward, over the side of the boat that is closest to the source of the wind.

Gybe -- Although one could sail straight downwind to the turning mark, boats generally sail faster when angled either left (port) or right (starboard) away from the source of the wind. This becomes a type of downwind tacking, with each tack being called a gybe. The tactic of changing the pole from side to side to keep it outboard on the side closest to the wind, is called gybing.

Gybing duel -- When two boats sail downwind, they gybe to build speed and maintain the best position they can on the course. Repeated gybes are called gybing duels, and these, too, sometimes can be exciting, such as when one boat luffs up another.

Luffing up -- During a gybing duel, as two boats converge, the leading boat on starboard gybe can come toward the trailing boat by swinging its bow up to starboard. The trailing boat must give way -- preferably in a controlled manner. When the trailing boat panics and loses control of its gennaker or spinnaker, the act of luffing up can be called a wild success by the lead boat. It is as effective as a slam dunk or pistols at 20 paces. On Sunday, America3 caught the bullet during this maneuver, too.

Foredeck crew -- Those crew members responsible for controlling the genoa, gennaker and spinnaker. They work for good sail sets, and to make good sets they must have a consistent pace of turn by the skipper or helmsman.

Skipper -- On Il Moro, there is one, Paul Cayard. On America3, there are many as three in the after-guard of Bill Koch, Buddy Melges and Dave Dellenbaugh. On Il Moro there is a consistent pace. On America3, there are as many as three variations on the theme.

Tactics -- The upwind, downwind and cross wind strategies used by skippers to win races -- especially when they have a slower boat but a better crew.

Sailboat racing -- A tipsy business of pulling on ropes while trying to use the wind to your best advantage, and achieved best by aggressive upwind tacking, downwind gybing and crew work that is in tune with one skipper rather than a triumvirate of helmsmen.

Winners -- Paul Cayard and Il Moro, who are sailing aggressively enough to be competitive and thinking fast enough to win.

Losers -- Bill Koch and, unfortunately, America3, a fast boat with a slow crew and after-guard.

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