YouTube video

Barging is the most common foul that happens on the starting line, yet there is no “anti-barging” rule in the Racing Rules of Sailing. Barging is when an inside windward boat takes mark room at a starting mark. And why isn’t the boat entitled to room? That is clearly stated in the preamble to Part C of Section 2 of the rule book. It states, “Section C rules do not apply at a starting mark surrounded by navigable water or at its anchor line from the time boats are approaching them to start until they have passed them.” Therefore, rules 18 Mark Room and 19 Room to Pass an Obstruction, do not apply while approaching the starting line to start. The rule that does apply is Rule 11, a windward boat must keep clear of a leeward boat.

This video shows a great example of barging. Watch the Beneteau 36.7 (sail number 52464) set-up above the boats on the layline at the starboard end of the line. The Beneteau proceeded to barge…boldly! Despite protestations from the leeward boat, the windward boat barreled right around the mark. Foul, Foul, Foul! Having to do turns right after a start is never a game-winner, particularly in a light-air race like this. Getting tossed is even worse.

The lesson: before the start, do some practice timed approaches and determine where you want to start. It would appear this boat didn’t follow that best practice. If your plan falls apart at the last minute, know what your Plan B escape route will be. You will lose less time and make more friends if you bail out of bad start rather than committing a foul and then having to take a penalty.

Now, let’s look at DUET, the leeward boat that, until she was so flagrantly fouled, looked to be winning the start. You’ll see that the boats further to leeward probably had left him a hole through which he could have sailed by bearing away from the barging boat. Instead, perhaps out of extreme caution or perhaps to reinforce the fact he was fouled, leeward boat turned sharply. So sharply that he lost a couple of boats.

After seeing the video on the UK Sailmakers Facebook page, the skipper of DUET wrote and said, “The reason why DUET had to bear away at the start line was because we received the following bazaar message from the barging boat – ‘Sea Room, Sea Room, Sea Room.’ As the captain, I made a call to provide Sea Room as requested. My entire crew was really upset!” His crew had every right to be upset. They had been fouled.

Here’s a tip on how to prevent a windward boat from barging. As soon as you see another boat setting up, hail “No room, don’t barge!” loudly and clearly. Then you have to turn your boat to come up to protect your position. Remember, there is no “proper course” before the start; any leeward boat is free to turn up as far as head to wind. The leeward boat needs to come up to force the windward boat to the wrong side of the starting mark. In this case, DUET should have headed right at the green mark to prevent the Beneteau from getting in. Remember, barging is not illegal if you can swoop in to start and keep clear of leeward boats.

If a leeward boat allows the windward boat to get overlapped with the starting mark, it loses its right to close the door. Rule 16, which states, “When a right-of-way boat changes course, she shall give the other boat room to keep clear” prevents the leeward boat from luffing the windward boat into the mark or committee boat. Click here to see an appeal about this. If on the other hand, you close the door by sailing a steady course without luffing and a boat sticks his bow between you and the mark or the committee boat, that boat has fouled you. You should bear off and protest; don’t hit him or make him hit the committee boat.

I can remember a start years ago, with a different Beneteau 36.7 to windward of me as I as I sailed toward the committee boat. For the final 60 seconds before the start, I repeatedly hailed the boat there would be no room. In fact, I sailed just above the windward side of the committee boat to make it amply clear there would be no room. Just before the starting signal, I bore off to cross the line. The next thing I know, the bow of the Beneteau was hitting my boat and the committee boat causing damage to both. He paid for his foul (well his insurance company paid).

Knowing the rules in the first place really makes a difference. A solid understanding of the rules can earn you several places in a regatta. Subscribe to the UK Sailmakers newsletter and “Like” our Facebook page so that you’ll be able to learn from all our rules quizzes, videos and articles as soon as they are published.

Video and article by Adam Loory

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