Tuesday, 19 January 2010

LTW Readers Q&A | 034; Balking?

Received a question from Michael Maurier about hailing “Starboard” and holding course:
The other day in a local club race, I was on port tack and a starboard tack boat hailed me "Starboard tack!"
I tacked promptly letting the other 3 boats to windward and astern know I was going to do so. They all tacked to starboard as well.
The starboard tacker did not hold her course and tacked off to port before she would have crossed my course as it was when she hailed me.
In years gone by, there was a rule against hailing 'Starboard tack’ and then failing to complete the cross. It was referred to as 'balking.'
Does this rule still exist in some form?
In the RRS 2009-2012 there is nothing preventing the starboard boat from hailing and then changing course – as it suits her – provided she complies with rule 16. It might be perceived as not very considered of her, but it is not against the rules.
It is the first time I have heard of the word ‘balking’.
I asked a friend who’s knowledge of rules “gone by” far exceeds my own. He answered:
The wording of the old rule 35 was:

35 Limitations on Altering Course

When one yacht is required to keep clear of another, the right-of-way yacht shall not alter course so as to prevent the other yacht from keeping clear, or so as to obstruct her while she is keeping clear, except:
(a) when luffing as permitted by rule 39.2; or
(b) when assuming a proper course either:
      (i) to start, when  she is on the starboard tack and the other
      yacht is on the port tack; or
      (ii) when rounding a mark.
This is from the 1993-1996 International Yacht Racing Rules (IYRR).
Even within this wording there is room for the starboard boat to tack away, as long as she does not prevent the port boat, in the process of keeping clear, from keeping clear.
Leo Pieter.
Perhaps there’s a LTW-reader who can shed more light on this issue?


  1. Jos
    In the RRS starboard is not required to hail. She does it only out of curtesy to the other boat(s). Maybe the question is indirectly about sportmanship.

  2. I agree with Robert. Hailing "starboard" and then tack is usual in Opti Class and the attempt to protests for this are usual after the races.
    No rules against doing this.


  3. I've never heard of "balking" but I have also been shouted at by an old-timer when doing what the starboard boat did here.

    I must admit that when I hail "starboard" to a port-tacker I am only thinking that I am telling him that I am here and that I am on starboard tack. I am warning him of my presence so he doesn't hit me. I am not making any promise about what move I might make next.

    I might stay on starboard, I might tack away if he tacks (especially if he is in a lee-bow situation) or I might even tack after he has ducked me. (People hate that!)

    If I really want to stay on starboard and the other guy can almost cross me I will probably hail, "Cross" or "Keep Going" and even bear away a little if necessary to let him cross cleanly.

  4. Hi. Tried to post a comment to the "balking and misleading" discussion, but failed. Here's what I (finally) wanted to say:

    Heckstall-Smith's 1923 book quotes a footnote to the YRA (UK) rules states:

    "Although the right of way yacht is not bound to hold her course, she must not alter it as to mislead or balk the other, in the act of keeping out of the way."

    Similar wording appears in the 1930 NAYRU (US) rules and the 1959 IYRU rules.

    Since it is in a footnote, the wording was added after the original rules were written in 1876. The discussion and the cited case (Lurcher vs. Kaga, Tanganyika, 1923) make it clear that the rules cover maneuvers and not hailing: "balking" is getting in the way of a boat attempting to keep clear and "misleading" would cover things like fake tacks and gybes.


  5. Dear Jos,

    The word baulking in the rules, I found in one of my older rule books. The RRS 1965-1968.
    RRS 34- Misleading or Baulking
    1. When a yacht is required to keep clear of another, the right of way yacht shall not (except to the extent permitted by rule 38.1, luffing after starting), so alter course as to:

    (a) prevent the other yacht from keeping clear; or:

    (b) mislead or baulk her while she is keeping clear.

    2. A yacht is not misleading or baulking another if she alters course by luffing or bearing away to conform a change in the strength or a direction of the wind. -----------------------------------------------------
    It sound like Michael Maurier refers to 1965.
    But even in that time the starboard boat had the right to tack. You just did not appreciate that as being a keep clear boat.


  6. Thanks, folks!
    The clarification is much appreciated.

    Gave away my age there, I reckon.
    Started racing in 1956....



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