Single-handed Sailing - Terminology

Terminology

In sailing, a hand is a member of a ship's crew. "Single-handed" therefore means with a crew of one, i.e., only one person on the vessel. The term "single-handed" has been adopted into more general English, meaning "done without help from others"; however, it has also come to mean literally "with one hand".

In the sailing community, the term "crewed" (or sometimes "fully-crewed") is used to mean sailing with a crew of more than one, in order to distinguish events permitting larger crews from their single-handed equivalents (even though a solo sailor is also correctly referred to as a vessel's crew). Hence, for example, "Bruno Peyron ... has taken part in almost all the large crewed and single-handed sailing events since the 80's."

The term "double-handed" is used to refer to sailing with two persons on board. There are a number of double-handed offshore races, and some races feature a double-handed category. In addition, many long distance passages and cruises are done by couples, who routinely sail double-handed.

This use of "hand" to mean a member of a ship's crew may derive from the days of sailing ships, where the crew had to work high in the rigging without the benefit of modern safety harnesses; it was an essential precaution that each sailor should hold on with one hand at all times, while working with the other. This meant that each crew member represented one hand for the ship's work, and gave rise to the saying "one hand for yourself, one for the ship". This saying remains excellent advice for sailors today, particularly single-handers.

Read more about this topic:  Single-handed Sailing

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