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Old 26-04-2017, 20:03   #1
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Why is sailing so formal?

Why is everything in sailing so formal? Everything from the techniques to the names of various items.

Is it just held over from the old days? Are other boating sports just as formal? I mean, I've never heard of power boats say they were tacking.

It's just an observation that I've made and wondered about. I didn't know if was just something that carried over through the years, or if it was mostly a safety thing, or what.
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Old 26-04-2017, 20:09   #2
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Re: Why is sailing so formal?

Actually, as a delivery guy; we often tack power boats upwind/seas... oh, and sailing has many wonderful traditions; one is a colorful language...
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Old 26-04-2017, 20:17   #3
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Re: Why is sailing so formal?

So it's more a tradition thing than it is a practical/safety thing?
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Old 26-04-2017, 20:25   #4
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Re: Why is sailing so formal?

much of it, yes; now TACKING? That's how you sail up wind....
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Old 26-04-2017, 20:26   #5
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Re: Why is sailing so formal?

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much of it, yes; now TACKING? That's how you sail up wind....
I know... but why isn't it just called "sailing up wind?"
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Old 26-04-2017, 20:26   #6
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Re: Why is sailing so formal?

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Originally Posted by TooCoys View Post
Why is everything in sailing so formal? Everything from the techniques to the names of various items.

Is it just held over from the old days? Are other boating sports just as formal? I mean, I've never heard of power boats say they were tacking.

It's just an observation that I've made and wondered about. I didn't know if was just something that carried over through the years, or if it was mostly a safety thing, or what.
Hi TooCoys,

Not sure that I understand what you mean by "formal"? Every activity has it's own lingo and jargon, it's not meant to be formal or exclusionary, it's just what things are called. Sure, the history behind the terms may be obscure, but that doesn't negate their value. Taking your example of "tacking", what else would you call it? Zig-zagging does not seems to aptly describe it, and that's about the best I can come up with .

There's definitely a lot of terminology that harkens back to days of yore, and having a common vernacular does indeed enhance safety. But I wouldn't call it formal.

Now, if you want formal, let's go visit the New York Yacht Club...

Regards,
David
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Old 26-04-2017, 20:31   #7
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Re: Why is sailing so formal?

Giving definitive and specific names to items or groups of items facilitates communication and helps avoid confusion. For example, when yelled out during a gale, "Main Halyard" is more easily expressed and understood than "that long rope that we use to raise the big sail that's behind the mast".

Other than language, there is little formality that I've noticed amongst sailors in this part of the world. Folks speak their mind and wear (or in some cases) or don't wear whatever they like.
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Old 26-04-2017, 20:31   #8
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Re: Why is sailing so formal?

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Now, if you want formal, let's go visit the New York Yacht Club...

Regards,
David

LOL! They'd laugh my boat right out the harbor!

I was just wondering why there was SO MUCH lingo, and why its such formal lingo.

I'll watch videos of some kind of fancy technique I've heard about, and then its such a simple technique its kind of a let down. LOL
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Old 26-04-2017, 20:46   #9
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Re: Why is sailing so formal?

Most activities that have specialized knowledge and skills have specialized language. Music, science, finance, medicine, etc.

The specialized language serves several roles - some of those roles are exclusionary and may even have class (or in some cases racial) overtones and connotations.

But for the most part the specialized vocabulary serves two roles:
1. Efficient communication of precise and technical information. "Left" and "right" by themselves need more words to convey meaning - left or right in relationship to what? The boat? The speaker? The listener? "Port" and "starboard" are more precise and efficient.
2. A quick and dirty way to establish (within broad ranges) the experience and knowledge of crew, pilot, skipper, etc. No it's not 100% accurate, but familiarity with the vocabulary is one of the fastest ways to differentiate between lubber and sailor.

Now, outside the vocabulary concerns - a lot the "formality" the OP (may) be questioning comes down to tradition.

There are two thoughts on tradition. One is that tradition is little more than thoughtless conservatism that is no better than ancestor worship. The other is that tradition is how important (and potentially life-saving) knowledge gets transferred from one generation to the next.

IMO, the best path is somewhere between the two. Some traditions really do codify important safety (and social) lessons that have evolved from thousands of years of sea-going knowledge and experience.

Others are *&*$ing pointless exercises that do nothing but exclude people from the community.

The trick is in differentiating between the two.
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Old 26-04-2017, 20:48   #10
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Re: Why is sailing so formal?

I'm an engineer. They call things by their proper names for identification purposes.

You wouldn't call :Mom: "Dad" would you?

Specificity helps, when left and right are different than port and starboard.

There actually is good reason for it, regardless of "only" tradition.

Sure, lotsa folks get away with calling portlights windows, galleys kitchens and berths bedrooms.

Your boat, your choice.
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Old 26-04-2017, 21:00   #11
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Re: Why is sailing so formal?

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I know... but why isn't it just called "sailing up wind?"
It is called sailing up wind. Or sailing to windward. Or beating. Or bashing...

Tacking is the technique used to sail up wind. It describes the maneuvers necessary, due to the fact that our boats can't sail directly upwind.

Its just a piece of terminology. You could say zig zagging, but that isn't as specific.
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Old 26-04-2017, 21:04   #12
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Re: Why is sailing so formal?

Wife: Do you think we can lay the jetty inlet?
Me: In in a minute or so, the flood is still pretty strong.
Wife: OK.
[Several minutes later]
Me: Ready?
Wife: Yep
Me: Go for it. Close Reach at the end.

Then we do what we do... Tack

For most of our daysailing, we sail home upwind.
That's just the geometry of our local sailing area and time/tide situations.

For those who critically analyze the photo, we were sailing downwind with no main under cruising spinnaker doing about 8 knots thru the water on the way home from vacation in Canada with a flood tide past Port Townsend. It's just a shot of my wife of 47 years, so there !
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Old 26-04-2017, 21:14   #13
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Re: Why is sailing so formal?

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Originally Posted by TooCoys View Post
I know... but why isn't it just called "sailing up wind?"
Because it's not "sailing up wind". It is "passing the front of the boat through the wind" as opposed to "gybing" which is "passing the back of the boat through the wind".

It's much easier for the skipper to call out "prepare to tack" than "prepare to pass the bow through the wind".

Similarly with all those other nautical terms. There are so many bits of string hanging about on a boat that it's much safer to say "ease the main halyard" than "slacken off that rope that is attached to the top of the big rear sail."
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Old 26-04-2017, 21:38   #14
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Re: Why is sailing so formal?

Sailing does have terminology which describes a specific action or piece of equipment. It is a bit weird at first, but before long it all comes together. Much of the terminology comes from over 100 years ago so it is somewhat dated.

Other sports have specific terminology as well, although the language is perhaps a bit more modern. Football, baseball, fishing, skiing - They all have their own words to describe specific actions or equipment.
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Old 26-04-2017, 21:49   #15
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Re: Why is sailing so formal?

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Taking your example of "tacking", what else would you call it? Zig-zagging does not seems to aptly describe it, and that's about the best I can come up with
Two big reasons to evolve.. safety and fun. The barrier to entry for casual sailors is kinda ridiculous compared to just about any other hobby. And when those newbies are on the boat, it's very hard to communicate with them... not because there isn't specific lingo, but because that lingo isn't intuitive.

I know how much tradition is involved, but I really wish there would be a revolution similar to metric vs imperial. Take your "tacking" example. Wouldn't "fore-tack/aft-tack" vs tacking/jibing make more sense as they are unified and easier to remember which is which for a newbie? Same with starboard. For a phrase we use all the time, a single syllable option would make so much more sense. I mean, just saying right to refer to the side of the boat could jibe with the fact that they have "right of way" under sail. There could be so much more integration.

I know I'll get destroyed for this comment and that's ok. See you on the water.
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