Five Important Hails
Five Important Hails
In the heat of competition, what you say is as important as when, and how you say it.
Finally, a loud hail can serve a tactical purpose. Here’s an example. You’re on starboard on a collision course with Eddie on port. You want to continue on starboard. Eddie has limited visibility because he has a genoa set and his entire crew is on the weather rail facing to weather with legs over the side. You don’t want Eddie to tack close under your lee bow. By having your entire crew hail “Starboard” in unison as loud as they can, the loudness of your hail may lead Eddie to think you’re much closer to him than you really are. Eddie may well tack immediately, enabling you to continue on starboard with Eddie well outside the lee-bow position in which he would force you to tack away. It’s worked for me many times.
Now, let’s get to my list of the five most important and useful hails:
• While sailing back and forth below the line before the start, hail “Starboard” when on starboard approaching boats on port. Some of the most costly collisions occur during this period when crews fail to pay attention to approaching boats.
• Hail “Starboard” or “Leeward boat—keep clear” when ever you have right of way under Rule 10 or 11 and there is any possibility that the other boat may not see you or may be getting too close.
• When tacking into a close leebow position under another boat, hail “Tack complete—close-hauled course” the instant you are on a close-hauled course. This establishes the moment at which you are no longer required by Rule 13 to keep clear and you acquire right of way under Rule 11 or 12.
• When you’re approaching the mark, usually the committee boat, at the starboard end of the starting line to start and another boat is overlapped with you on your windward side, hail: “There will be no room for you between me and that mark.” Make your hail firmly, authoritatively, and well before you reach the mark, so there is still time for the windward boat to luff up and pass the mark to port. If you wait until the windward boat is unable to avoid passing the mark to starboard, she will have succeeded in barging her way between you and the mark.
• Approaching a mark, if you are definitely clear ahead of a nearby boat, hail “No overlap” to her when you are about six lengths from the mark—well before you reach the zone. Similarly, if you definitely have an inside overlap on a boat well before the zone, hail “Overlap” to her at that time. These hails can be helpful in two important ways. First, they establish your position at a time when the overlap between you and the other boat either clearly exists or clearly does not exist. Then, if the other boat later claims to have obtained a last-second overlap or to have broken an overlap just before the zone, the onus rule (Rule 18.2(d)) will favor you should you end up in the protest room. What’s more, your hail will almost always distract the other boat’s crew and lead them to say something like, “Hey, we’re no where near the zone!” You may find that the distraction buys you a gain of a few feet.
I am sure that many of you have discovered other useful hails. Please e-mail me telling me about them, and I’ll devote a future column to reporting on your favorite hails. The e-mail address is in the blue box above. Thanks!
“Tack or cross?”
In many fleets these days, the hail you hear most often is, “Tack or cross?” It’s most often made by a port-tack boat on a windward leg that would like to cross in front of a starboard-tack boat, but isn’t sure she can do so without forcing the starboard-tack boat to alter course. The hail is shorthand for “Waive me across your bow and, if need be, bear off to let me cross. If you don’t, I’ll leebow you and force you either to tack away or to live in my bad air.” If the starboard boat wishes to continue on starboard, it makes sense for her to respond to the hail by hailing, “Cross” and signaling to the port-tack boat that she may cross ahead. If you waive her across, it is my opinion that you must let her cross and not protest her, even when you have to bear off to do so. Failure to let her cross or protesting her might leave you open to being successfully protested for breaking Rule 2, Fair Sailing.
You are, however, under no obligation to waive port across. You may sail on without responding at all. In that case the port boat is required by Rule 10 to keep clear of you. If you don’t wish to waive port across, I recommend that for safety and clarity you respond to port’s hail by hailing back “Starboard—keep clear of me.”