FREMANTLE, Australia — Now that the America's Cup has your attention, there are no doubt some questions you'd like to ask.
We've tried to anticipate some of them. Jon Wright, crew manager and mainsail trimmer on Stars & Stripes, served as technical adviser.
Question: Which sides are port and starboard?
Answer: Port is left, starboard right, facing forward.
Q: Why don't you just say left and right?
A: Because if you're facing aft--backward--on a boat, your left-right is different from someone facing forward. Port and starboard never change.
Q: What's windward and leeward?
A: Windward is into or facing the wind (upwind), leeward is the opposite (downwind).
Q: If a crewman falls overboard, will the boat stop to pick him up?
A: Yes, but the race is virtually lost. A boat must finish with all the crew it started with. He may be picked up by a chase boat, but the race boat must return to where he fell in to get him back on board. By that time, the opponent is long gone. It happened a couple of times in the early trial rounds, but not recently.
Q: Is a man overboard in danger of being struck by a winged keel?
A: During a collision with Steak 'n Kidney in November, South Australia helmsman Phil Thompson was knocked overboard and under the boat, brushing the keel, but he was recovered quickly and sailed the next day.
Q: Have there been any serious injuries?
A: Crewmen on nearly every boat have suffered pulled muscles and broken bones, and Australia IV bowman Damian Fewster got a concussion when the spinnaker pole fell on his head two weeks ago.
Q: Is there a bathroom on board?
A: Some boats are equipped with plastic buckets. Others take care of the problem when nobody's looking--but always to leeward.
Q: Are there galleys? Sleeping quarters?
A: What do you think this is--the Queen Elizabeth II? The area below decks of a 12-meter is a sail storage shed, which on a rough day can become an indoor swimming pool. If the sails aren't too wet, the crew will stretch out on them for a nap before or after a race.
Q: What is a 12-meter, anyway?
A: A formula boat, actually about 65 feet long overall. The formula of waterline length plus double the girth plus the square root of the sail area less freeboard (height of the deck above the water) divided by 2.37 must not exceed 12 meters. You can arrange it any way you like.
Q: How do the on-board TV cameras work?
A: There are no on-board controls. Stars & Stripes' is attached to the mast and doesn't move. Kookaburra's, on the stern, rotates by remote control from a helicopter. Both are on all the time, with a director on shore selecting which picture he wants to show the viewers at a given time.
Q: When is it too rough and windy to race?
A: It's arbitrary, but the committee will probably start races if the wind is less than 30 knots, then call them off if it hits 35.
Q: What's a knot?
A: A nautical mile per hour. A nautical mile is 6,076 feet, or 1.15 miles.
Q: What's a lay day?
A: A day off from racing. Each boat can call for one through the first four races, then request another after four races. If both request them for the same day, both are charged. The committee may call its own lay days because of bad weather.
Q: Are women allowed on board?
A: Stars & Stripes has a backup navigator, Dory Vogel, who sailed in one of the early trial-round races. Her husband is Scott Vogel, the bowman.
Q: What's a spinnaker? Jib? Genoa? Gennaker?
A: A spinnaker is the parachute-like sail used downwind. A jib is the headsail. A genoa, generally, is a large jib. A gennaker is a billowing cross between a spinnaker and genoa, used for reaching (sailing across the wind).
Q: Why do 12-meters have two steering wheels? Is one for the driving instructor?
A: Don't be smart. The helmsmen prefer to steer from one side of the boat--usually the high side--to see past the sails. Two wheels allow them to steer from either side.
Q: How fast do the boats go?
A: Upwind, in good wind, between 8.3 and 8.5 knots. Reaching, 13 knots. Downwind, 11 to 13 knots.
Q: What's a tack?
A: Several things. On port tack, the wind is coming across the port side of the boat. To turn to starboard tack, the boat tacks across head to wind, from right to left. A tack also is the front lower corner of a sail.
Q: How much is the crew paid?
A: Generally, room and board and $75 a week. A few with exceptional responsibilities are on modest salaries. Nobody gets rich sailing in the America's Cup.
Q: What is luffing?
A: A leeward boat has the right to turn upwind against a windward boat, which has to stay out of the way or risk being guilty of a foul.
Q: Are the start and finish lines in the same place?
A: No. The race starts at the downwind end of the course and finishes at the upwind end.
Q: Where is Fremantle?
A: Right now, it's where the action is.