Sunday, 10 October 2010

Housten, we have a problem!

Almeria, day two, In-port racing.

Lots of breeze. lots of action, and .... a BIG communication problem.

Rule 20 - as a safety rule - dictates only two possible responses:
Either the hailed boat tacks or she signals "You tack". No ifs, buts or maybees.

It is bad enough that the Umpires miss the first initial hail for room to tack, but it equally as bad when they miss the "You tack" response. Decisions based on the lack of proper hand signalling will influence the race dramaticly!.

No signal for room to tack and rule 13 will be most likely be infringed.
Only luffing as a response to a hail, will earn you a penalty for infringing rule 20 because you haven't tacked as soon as possible
Not tacking after the hailed boat has responded, again is a rule 20 infringement.

We can definitely say that the communication is the key issue in all these situations

How can we improve that?
We are discussing additional flags, but until now can't agree on that.
It should be one person - the helm - who's signalling, not the whole crew. That we can agree on already
But can we do more?
If you have suggestions, don't hesitate to comment.


  1. "signals" as verb replaces "hails"?

    Weather its the helm or not should not be an issue, rather a boat hailing or signaling conflicting hails is an issue, its the helmsmans responsibillity to have his or her boat hail or signal as prescribed.

    Visual signals will depend on line of sight.
    Audio signals depend on decibels.

    Exchange mobile numbers so one boat can call the other? or send sms (that leaves a proofable undisputeable trail.)

    If umpires miss the initial hail, rather miss the initial hail actually being made.. the problem, as the windward boat only needs to tack to force leeward to tack too. Leeward must tack too presuming Umpire never hears hail.... if she doesn't she faces being penalised infringing R20. Is the hail not made or not heard?

    Helmsman will have to be equiped with voice recorder,
    which should record own and foreign hails, no record - no hail.

    Clearly signaling or hailing in the first place is the problem...

    Based on seamanship windward should tack so that leeward has room to tack too, still leeward must pass to leeward of the obstruction also leaving inside room for windward. As such signaling is no longer needed, boats knows what they must do boats must give room and boats will have room.

    The given room may be unnecessary, but beats the alternative of collisions and confusion as well as deliberate useage of unclarities.

  2. One of the ISAF Submissions on the agenda for the annual meeting in November is to require the "Match-Race" hand signals in team racing. In other words, a skipper calling for room to tack must wave his arm toward the other boat, and if the hailed boat responds "You tack," she must accompany the hail with a gesture, pointing at the hailing boat. There has been a lot of support and some opposition to this requirement (it's clearly difficult to implement in single-handed boats such as Optis), so it will probably go into Appendix D as an optional feature that can be deleted by sailing instructions.

  3. Rule 20 gets amended in small ways every time the rules change. I think the rule is now poor and unclear. Maybe I'll write a paper about it.

    It is often said that rule 20 is a ‘safety’ rule.

    Rule 20 secures for a boat, close hauled and standing into danger at an obstruction, room to tack away from the obstruction, subject to conditions. Rule 20 regulates and apportions the tactical disadvantage arising, among nearby boats.

    Rule 20 is not, however, strictly essential for safety. A boat entitled to rely on rule 20 can always start sheets, slow down and tack behind an outside boat, or gybe and sail clear. What rule 20 does is to provide a less tactically detrimental alternative to slowing down or gybing.

    I do NOT agree that an outside boat must respond whenever an inside boat hails.

    Dave Perry's US Sailing Racing Rules 2009-2012 book says (at page 204)
    "when L or A adequately hails, W or B has only two choices for a response: either tack as son as possible or immediately reply "you tack". W or B does not have the option of disputing L or A's judgement about her need to hail. When W or B feels L or A's hail is not proper (e.g. she is not really near an obstruction …) she nevertheless must respond. She can then protest under rule 20.3…"

    The RYA powerpoint presentation on the new rules said the same thing.

    But that was before ISAF Q&A 2009-028, Answer 1(b) now says "No. The scenario in which rule 20.1 applies is when ‘a boat sailing close-hauled or above hails for room to tack’. If the hail comes from a boat in any other circumstance, rule 20.1 does not apply."

    It is clear that if a hail for water or room to tack comes from a boat that is not close hauled or not on the same tack, the hailed boat is permitted to ingnore the hail.

    Applying simple verbal logic, if the obligation to respond to a hail created by rule 20.1 is switched off by failure to comply with either of two of the three conditions contained in the rule ('close hauled' and 'on the same tack'), then failure the comply with the third condition (approaching an obstruction) must also switch the obligation off (of course a protest committee would impose the strictest onus on an outside non-responding boat to prove that there was no obstruction at all).

    Despite the intention, and now that Q&A 2009-028 has cracked the principle open, rule 20.1 is NOT simple and watertight.

    Having said all that I observe that the problem in this scenario is caused by having very large, very fast boats which defeats the fundamental proposition of rule 20 that any boat 'within hail' will have enough time to respond.

    I think that the match/umpired fleet racing hand signals are a good idea, but I think that putting new flags into the equation will do nothing but cause delay and confusion, which are the very things you are trying to avoid. How about a flashing light and a siren?: that would be quick and unmistakable.


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