Picture a sailboat on its final approach to RC Boat end of the start line, reaching above the boat-end layline. Suddenly other boats sailing on and near the layline begin shouting “No room!” “Don’t go in there!” “You’re Barging!” followed by ugly sounds of shattered fiberglas… “Bang, Ouch, Kapow, F$#st!”
A “barging” start is a risky maneuver, but the term is not mentioned in the current 2021-2024 Rules of Sailing. It is covered, however, in preamble Part 2, Section C, At Marks and Obstructions, as follows:
“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.”
So, the Section C rules concerning mark-room (Rule 18), room to pass an obstruction (Rule 19), and room to tack at an obstruction (Rule 20) do NOT apply at starting marks. However, Part 1, Section A, Rule 11, On the Same Tack, Overlapped (a windward boat shall keep clear of a leeward boat) does apply, as do the other rules of Part 1 Sections A and B.
To learn more, view the following video from UK sailmakers on the issue of barging. It shows the camera boat and a boat ahead, both likely sailing above the layline, and a third boat, a Beneteau 36.7 (sail # 52464) reaching-in to pass below the starting mark (usually an RC boat)(i.e. barging) and take a spot on the line. A fourth boat, named “Duet” is sailing on the layline intending to start in the spot taken by the offending boat. Rather than press the issue, “Duet” dips, and falls-off, to leeward, forced to accept a second-row start. Even though there is no collision, “Duet” protests the barging boat (i.e. the Beneteau 36.7) for taking room to which they were not entitled. Here’s the video:
So what can the Beneteau 36.7 (i.e. the barging boat) do to avoid this barging situation? There are at least two remedies:
1.) Do NOT be tempted to “barge in there”. Immediately round-up before the RC boat (or mark), circle around the pack of boats below the layline, look for gaps, and execute a second or third-row start.
2.) Immediately round-up before the RC boat or mark, sail to windward of the RC Boat and fall-off and do a “dip-start” below the starting line, behind the pack of boats that have already started.
3.) Preferably, set-up the final approach to the start line on, or below, the layline to the mark or RC boat, and avoid a barging approach, altogether…it’s often not worth the risk.
And, lastly, as a refresher, what is a “layline” exactly? In this situation, the layline is an imaginary line extending from the destination RC Boat or mark, which would allow a close-hauled boat to sail directly to the RC boat (or mark) and clear it on the correct side. Keep-in-mind, that the layline(s) will move as the wind shifts.
Should a boat sailing close-hauled on the layline to pass close-by the RC Boat be secure in reaching the start line unmolested? Not necessarily. Besides needing to discourage would-be bargers, a boat on the layline can be luffed-up to windward by another boat overlapped to leeward. So, they need to be alert to boats approaching from multiple directions and defend their position!
A barge start is a high-risk starting procedure and starting near the RC Boat is fraught with danger…do so at your own peril! See you on the water…