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Author Topic: Rules of Towing and Steering  (Read 1807 times)


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Rules of Towing and Steering
« on: September 24, 2010, 03:43:29 pm »

Hey all,

After looking on youtube for quite some time today on my day off, i have been looking into tug towing on a bit more detail.
i have noticed that each club tend to have there own rules into towing in regards to point scoring and other factors, which is confusing me slightly as i have no clue what the rules are or really whats involved.

I have seen 2 men teams and a 3 man team and some solo events, so my questions is what are the rules to towing? how do you do it? what weights are you looking to pull/tow? and what is the best way to get into towing events?

The reason im asking is before i decide on a model to build i would like to know the rules so i can decide what type of tug will do the best job, i don't believe spending any serious cash on a model kit unless its up to the job.

Links to youtube vids, maybe standard rules of towing would be much appreciated.

Thanks for you time.



  • Full Mayhemer
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Re: Rules of Towing and Steering
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2010, 05:09:06 pm »

Hi Harry,
this no doubt will be one of many opinions shared;
 our experiance is,
1/32 to 1/24th scale is more than adequate as weight and size for transportation and storing are limiting factors.
biggest motor, biggest prop (Kort) and ballast in batteries ( better amps than wasted lead weight)
12volt system is easy and electrics are available (ESC)
Keep detail down as knocks, scrapes and bumps are the norm
rubber fenders/tyres are an asset

As regards towing rules;
Brian Ward of MMM is a fantastic source if information
Whatever your clubs guidelines are then stick to them as you are more than likely to do the most towing with your own club
listen to others, think, and then take only the advice you can afford and is directly relevant

Above all
 :-)ENJOY %%




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Re: Rules of Towing and Steering
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2010, 11:57:08 pm »

Hi Tugwash,  I would suggest If you can go to other clubs in or out of your area, on a tug towing day, Or if you know some one with a tug & a barge to tow that will let you have a go, to give you a idea at what you are looking at. Speed is not essential, you need to look at manoeuvrability, Do you want twin screw with fixed or steerable rudder,(kortz) single screw, fixed or steerable rudder,( these you could had a bow thruster ), shottle drives, voiths drives, The choice is yours Harry. Has for the rules it is same what ever size tug you have. Single tow it is 1point for hitting a buoy with tug or tow, 5 points for missing a gate / obstacle, For the the two & three man teams, same rules apply, on the two man the tugs can make contact on the hull to help manover it. Three man team, only the free running tug can make contact with the hull to help manover it. There is no rule for length of tow rope. Hope this helps you and gives you some Idea.



Master Cheif

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Re: Rules of Towing and Steering
« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2010, 11:52:32 am »

Tugwash i wrote this on another forum ,. so i will just c&p the information this should help clear up the rules for you

Each club has there own rules but the mpba have a set of rules which at least locally down this way are followed.

For teams of 2 or 3 tugs, these cover both standard and novice formats.
1. Boats used should be models of ships designed and built for the purpose of towing; deep sea,
estuary, harbour and river tugs are all acceptable. (Pusher tugs may be used but must tow via a
2. One tug to be attached to the bow of the tow, one to the stem. Tugs may be tethered either way
round, ie. bow-bow, stern-bow etc. The third tug cannot be tethered to the tow.
3. (a)The towline length and composition are for the competitor to decide. Working winches are
(b)The tow line must not be used to pull the tug ‘tight’ onto the tow
4. (a) Two tug teams may manoeuvre the tow by hull to hull contact.
(b)Three tug teams, only the free running tug may use hull to hull contact to manoeuvre the
tow. A tethered tug using hull contact to manoeuvre the tow will be penalised. Accidental or
passive touches; for instance where a tethered tug is laying alongside the tow during
manoeuvres in a confined space such as a docking area, will not be penalised.
5. The pondside inside the dock area is dead, outside the dock area the pondside is live to all tugs
and tows.
6. All bouys and other artefacts used to represent hazards are live to all tugs and tows at all times.
7. All tugs and tow must sail the course as given. The third tug, if used, can work from outside a
hazard but must pass through the hazard on the course as given.
8. In the event of a breakdown, including the tow rope fouling a propeller, the judge should be
informed immediately, the tugs and tow will be recovered manually if necessary. When the
breakdown has been corrected the round can be restarted from the position the breakdown
occurred. No penalty will be awarded for a breakdown.


Touch\scrape by tug\tow on any buoy 1 point
Touch\scrape by tug\tow on pondside outside dock area 1 point
Tethered tugs using hull contact to manoeuvre tow (3 tugs) 3 points
Sail wrong course per tug\tow 5 points
Miss a gate completely 15 points


These come in all shapes and sizes but ideally should have been built for towing if they are to be
used for towing. The towing bollards/winches/ structures on the tug must be built in the most
robust manner possible. Decks or bulkheads carrying the towing equipment should also be
strengthened, 6mm ply sheet as decking is useful here, and should be firmly glued into the hull of
the tug with the joints being reinforced if necessary. The idea is to build in strength so that any
shock loading is transmitted to the hull of the tug, moving the tug through the water, instead of
allowing the load to be absorbed by a small structure which may eventually fail if it is shocked
frequently enough. Towing from a removable superstructure is not recommended.
Batteries, motors, propulsion and control systems should also be strengthened to cope with the
extra workload they will be asked to carry. A 1 2v motor produces the power without putting as
much strain on the electronics as would a 6v motor doing the same amount of work. Larger
batteries give longer endurance le use 8-10 Ah batteries instead of 4Ah.
The use of a gog (or gob) rope is recommended especially on older narrower beamed tugs. The
gog rope is fastened into the stern of the tug and controls the position of the tow rope preventing
the rope moving to a beam on position and thence the possibility of capsizing the tug. The book
Tugs and Towing by M.J.Gaston, published by PSL (Patrick Stephens Limited) includes
illustrations of gog rope installations.
Some people have already built tugs to scale standards but may now want to tow with the tug. The
problem here is doing the work to provide a strong towing structure without necessitating a
complete rebuild of the tug. Unfortunately because of the diversity of building techniques and
standards it is impossible to give any detailed guidance in how to do this, except to say (again) that
the towing structure needs to made as strong as possible. Tugs originating as scale boats would
probably be better suited (it may be that the owner is happier) on lighter tows such as single
towing or in the novice class of team towing. However a small tug is still capable of moving the
largest of tows, don’t be intimidated by size, thinking ahead and working as a team count for more
than raw power.
Areas where the tow rope may fall when slack must be kept clear of unnecessary clutter.
Twin screw tugs with independent motor control have an advantage over single screw tugs,
however if you have a single screw tug try forming a three tug team instead of a two tug team and
use the extra tug’s freedom of movement to compensate for the relative lack of manoeuvrability of
the single screw tug.
In team towing the tugs should ideally be closely matched in their performance. However when
this is not the case the more powerful tug should be on the stem of the tow. The rear tug is used not
only to help control the tow but also to get the lead tug and tow out of trouble should the need
arise, If the weaker tug is on the stern it may not be able to control the situation when things start to
get out of hand.


Team tows; standard (heavy) tows should displace between 150 to 250 pounds (70 to 115 kg),
novice (light) tows should displace between 50 and 150 pounds (22 to 70 kg). Single tug tows
should displace 50 to 80 pounds ( 22 to 36 kg).
In all cases the idea is to make the tugs work, a tow which meekly follows the tug wherever it goes
doesn’t present the skipper or tug with any great challenge. The weight and inertia of the tow
should play a role in deciding how the team (or individuals) solve the problems which they have
been set.
Tows should have sufficient freeboard, or be provided with push areas by way of a raised
bulwark, so that tugs can push on the tow without the risk of the tug over-riding the tow.
The tow does not have to be a ship, it can be any ‘object’ which could be reasonably be expected
to be towed by one, two or three tugs but should have a recognisable ‘bow’ and ‘stern’ in order to
avoid any confusion in scoring where the orientation of the tow is important.
The tow should be provided with a bollard in the bow and a bollard in the stern for the tugs to
fasten on to and these must be firmly mounted in the deck so as not to pull out with prolonged use.
The same criteria for construction applies to these bollards as it does to the towing bollards
mounted in the tugs. The area around the bollards should be clear of any objects which could snag
the tow ropes. It is not necessary to provide a ‘bullring’ in the bow of the tow or a towing fairlead
in the stern.


Should, if possible, consist of two different courses (which may be totally separate or have
sections common to both), each course with its own tow. During the day all teams sail both
courses. A two course format provides action throughout the day with something on the water all
the time, also it ensures that in a large entry event, eg 20 teams competing, the 20th team doesn’t
have to wait until half past four in the afternoon to get a sail.
The course should not be an obstacle course, the tugs must be allowed the room to work in a
reasonably true to prototype manner.
The courses should not contain long sections between hazards, these are merely battery killers and
serve no useful purpose, usually disadvantaging the smaller boats. Contestants should be set
manoeuvrability problems where accuracy and team work are essential in order to succeed.
Generally ‘gates’ should be 3 to 4 feet wide, but an occasional gate which is narrower is
acceptable, for instance as an entrance to a dock area.


There is no ideal length of tow rope, it is for the competitor to decide what length of rope is most
suitable for his tug, the way he intends to use it, for the particular tow and course in use on the day;
however measurements taken of ropes in use in team towing indicate that a length of 38” to 42”
would be a good starting point.
As with rope lengths, rope compositions are for the competitor to decide. Medium weight parcels
string as sold in DIV stores has been found to work satisfactorily. Floatation collars le corks, on
the line to prevent the rope sinking are OK; however, floatation collars will not prevent a rope
from fouling a propellor, practical experience is the only way to overcome this problem. Ropes
should have a loop at each end. To fasten on to the tug, wrap the loop once round the tow ‘hook’
(or whatever it may be) and then bring the rope back through the tip of the loop and pull gently to
tighten. On the tow, drop the loop over the bollard then wind one side of the loop round the bollard
until all the slack in the loop is taken up.
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