Jargon Watch: The language of sailing

Published on August 31st, 2022

Whether they are fictitious names or people, Max Ebb and Lee Helm are regular contributors to Latitude 38 magazine. Here is their column from the September 2022 issue:


I am racing long courses around the buoys a lot less these days. The weekday evening club races and the longer point-to-point events are becoming my preferred format, and long ocean races are also high on my list — but the traditional all-day round-the-buoys YRA races seem less and less interesting, especially to those of us who have already sailed those courses a few hundred times.

But when Lee Helm called one night to see if I could fill in on a very big, very fast and very competitive boat in the most high-profile regatta of the year, some of the old enthusiasm for a Bay race kicked in, and I said yes.

“I’m a little rusty for the front end,” I admitted, but Lee assured me that my role would be strictly sandbag; they already had more than enough foredeck fodder. “The doctor will be in tomorrow. We need our maximum allowable rail meat.”

I picked up Lee from her housing co-op near campus early on the race day, but it turned out I had two passengers, not just Lee Helm.

“Like, I’m bringing another novice sailor,” Lee explained as the two women piled in. “At 105 pounds, her weight will bring us exactly up to our crew limit. And we can, like, use the anchovy lane to beat the traffic.”

“Anchovy lane?” I asked.

“HOV lane, if you say it fast,” Lee’s friend explained. “High Occupancy Vehicles.”

We were across the bridge and at the yacht club in record time, and Lee led us down to the boat. With barely time for introductions, the owner and skipper put us to work.

“Help the front porch debone and brick the backflapper,” he ordered.

“He means, ‘Help the foredeck crew take the battens out of the practice main and fold it into a compact shape,'” one of the crew translated for the newbie sailor. – Full report

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