Boat A is sailing close-hauled on port tack towards an obstruction that she must tack to avoid. Boat B is sailing close-hauled one boat length to windward and one boat length astern of A. A hails B for room to tack.
As A is approaching the obstruction, how soon is she entitled to hail for room to tack?
A may hail for room to tack at the time that, to avoid the obstruction safely, she needs to begin the process described in rule 20
. She may hail at the moment that allows her sufficient time in the prevailing conditions to
- hail B for room to tack, and make a second hail in the event B does not respond;
- give B time to respond (see Answer 2 below);
- give time for any additional boat that must respond for A to have room to tack (see Case 113); and
- tack herself, as soon as possible thereafter, in a seamanlike manner and avoid the obstruction.
How quickly must B respond?
When the boats are clearly approaching an obstruction at which A will need room to tack, B must be alert to the situation and anticipate a hail from A. Anticipation is necessary because rule 20.2
(c) requires B to respond either by immediately replying ‘You tack’ or by tacking as soon as possible. If B does not immediately hail ‘You tack’, A must give B the time required for a competent, but not expert, crew to prepare for and execute her tack in a seamanlike manner as soon as possible in the prevailing conditions.
What should A do if B does not respond to her hail?
Although the rule only requires one hail, if time permits it is prudent for A to repeat her hail. The lack of a response from B does not mean that A must hold her course. If needed, A should avoid the obstruction in the safest manner, which may include luffing up to head to wind or gybing. A can then protest if B has not responded as required by rule 20.2
What action by A constitutes a hail as required by rule 20
Unlike rule 20.2
(c), rule 20.1
does not require A to use specific words in her hail but, to meet the requirements of the rule, those words must clearly convey that A requires room to tack. The hail must be directed towards B and be as loud as is required in the prevailing conditions to be capable of being heard by B. A hail is primarily an oral signal, but in addition the hailing boat may draw attention to the hail by, for example, physical gestures, a whistle or horn signal, or, at night, light signals. If boats are required to monitor a particular radio channel while racing, the hail may also be made over that channel.
These requirements for hailing apply equally to B if she responds ‘You tack’.