August 2016 - Barging

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August 2016 - Barging

Barging is a word that does not appear in the rule book, but it is a concept that is recognized by many at the starting line. On any starting line and in particular one where the committee boat is very favoured – for example if there has been a big wind shift to the right – there will be crowd of boats at the committee-boat end of the line. Many of those boats will be trying to start right next to the committee boat, where there may be clearer air and where they are clear to tack to port just after starting. Some of those boats will come from above the layline to the committee boat and would like to squeeze in above the boats to leeward of them. These are the boats we say are barging.

 In the first diagram, Blue is to leeward of Yellow and closehauled on a course to pass close to the committee boat’s stern. Blue and Yellow are on the same tack and overlapped, so Yellow has to keep clear. Blue’s course leaves no room between her and the committee boat so Yellow has to circle around and try again. The key rules concept here is that the mark-room rule, Rule 18 in Section C of Part 2, does not apply. The preamble to this section says that Section C does not apply at a starting line surrounded by navigable water. If the starting line was at a pier (for example, if we started the TGIF race from the front dock) then rule 18 would apply since it would not be surrounded by navigable water. If the committee boat in the diagrams was not the end of a starting line, but it was in fact a finishing mark or a mark in the middle of the course, then rule 18 would apply, and the inside boats would be entitled to mark-room. At a normal starting line though, rule 18 does not apply. The main rule then is rule 11.

 In the second diagram, there is initially room between Green and the committee boat for Orange to fit in. At position 4, Green hardens up. There is room for Orange to alter course to avoid Green. Orange has to circle around and try again.

The third diagram is very similar, but this time Red is a little further ahead. This time when White alters course, Red is already overlapped with the committee boat. There is nowhere for Red to safely go. According to rule 16, when White alters course, she has to give room for Red to keep clear, and since the definition of room excludes the requirement to preform un-seamanlike acts like Red hitting the committee boat, there is no room for Red to keep clear. White has to create that room by bearing away (slowly so that her stern doesn’t swing and hit Red). The key message here is to close the gap early. You have to close it physically, by saiing towards the corner of the committee boat, not by just yelling that you are intending to. In other words, do it early enough for the other boat to have options and do it clearly.
Room The space a boat needs in the existing conditions, including space to comply with her obligations under the rules of Part 2 and rule 31, while manoeuvring promptly in a seamanlike way.

When boats are on the same tack and overlapped, a windward boat shall keep clear of a leeward boat. 


16.1 When a right-of-way boat changes course, she shall give the other boat room to keep clear.

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.

© Copyright 2016 Andrew Alberti
Posted: 8/1/2016 1:31:07 PM by Andrew Alberti

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This page provides links to a set of articles original published in Kwasind magazine. The versions here include animated diagrams. The original articles can be found within the original magazines which are available online back to January 2007. 

Articles before December 2016 are based on the Racing Rules of Sailing 2009-12 or 2013-2016 and have not been updated to reflect the changes that apply as of January 2017 with the publication of the Racing Rules of Sailing 2017-20. A copy of the new rules can be found on
Andrew Alberti has been writing these monthly articles in the Kwasind since early 1997.  They explain the Racing Rules of Sailing. Andrew is a National Judge and National Umpire. He is a member of the Sail Canada Rules and Appeals Committees. The interpretation of the rules contained in the articles is Andrew's and not that of the RCYC or any of the committees he sits on. 

Send your questions to Andrew at


166 Years of Tradition | World-Class Sailing | Toronto Island & City Clubhouse
June 2020 - An Unusual Start
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