The start: what you can't do:
blocking and barging

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Tactics and Rules

This is about the rules of the start, in the usual position---a line set at right angles to the wind, with the Committee boat at the starboard end.

catamaran sailing uk A bad choice: blocking above the course

Cat A, coming towards the line close-hauled, sees that this will leave a gap between him and the Committee boat.

B is in luck, as he can use this gap, coming from a bit to windward before approaching the line close-hauled.

  Before the gun, A can luff up, hauling in tight, or going nearly head to wind to block B. This is a bad move!

A is very likely to stall, and C will get away from both by going for boat speed further down the line.

After the gun, A has to go back to the closehauled course ("proper course") .

What you can't do: barging at the start

 At the start, unlike the rest of the race, a boat cannot claim room at the Committee boat (or a mark on the start-line) from another boat starting on a "proper" close-hauled course

  "A" in the diagram (right) is coming to the line close-hauled and has right of way.

 B, sailing freer and coming down from windward of A to the Committee boat, cannot demand room from A, nor barge through the gap that isn't there between A and the Committee boat

(Below: Rutland 2011: All these boats are approaching the Committee boat to start. Yellow and blue hulls have come down from windward, and are barging grey hulls, who is  keeping the correct  line to shave past the Committee boat---there is no hiding their crime, directly under the eyes of the  Committee boat)

  (Their defence is that the conditions are MUCH more gusty than appears here, so it has been hard to plan and manoeuvre, but the lesson is to play safe at these times)


Avoiding barging: a start at Bassenthwaite 2010

    Paul, Catapult 500, leads off shaving past the inner marker buoy at the starboard end of the start line, and Justin, 518, will  follow. Stuart, 531, has seen that if he continues, he will finish up barging Justin or the boat following below him, under the eye of the Committee boat, so is luffing up, to avoid diving into a hole beside the Committee boat. (See below)

         2) The boats stream away but 531 has to tack away  from the line. It is a disappointing start, but this was  a good split-second decision and better than disentangling a collision and then doing a 360' turn.
(A twist in this is that Alastair, in 513 (part-obscured in the top photo) has lost his watch pre-race, and is using Paul as a replacement watch, following him safely to leeward, at the cost of being blanketed in the first seconds of the race. This illustrates the general point that to leeward you are safe, if disadvantaged)


In this weight of wind, travelling a boat-length takes about one second, so a safe start rather than yards gained is the priority---but this start is being contested, with Alex in 1 leading, with 17 safe on his shoulder. The boats powering down on the left, well below close-hauled, have no right to room at the mark---504 will probably go close to the mark following 17 across, so it is the far left boat (red bows) who has to watch being caught out barging on 504. (After a  360 penalty turn in this wind, the rest of the fleet will be over the horizon.)


   Before the start, John Terry, close to camera, watches Alastair (ahead) edge up to the Committee boat. Alastair plans to work slowly up to the boat, to shave past its stern on the gun, and it will be a great start if he does it.

  But the sails are well out and still drawing, so they are not close-hauled. You can see from John's wake that he has come down fast to turn to be below Alastair----so his aggressive plan is to leave it until about 30 seconds to the gun, then drive fast past Alastair to leeward, and then go tight-hauled up to the Committee boat, luffing Alastair hard. Alastair will have no right to room, and may be pushed onto the boat disastrously, or have to tack and circle back.

Alastair's defence is to look around, see John in this threatening position, and drop down further to leeward, when John is still further back and has no rights. Then Alastair will be close-hauled when he heads for the Committee boat, and John will struggle to get below him and then push up.

In the last minute before the start, it is easy to just be looking at the approaching flag and the watch, and not notice the threats coming.

(Photo: George Evans' on-board video camera)

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