Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Welcome to the 21st Century

IcomSome of the realities of dinghy sailing have kept time standing still in this genre of the sport. Any modern keelboat sailor might be shocked at the lack of support a dinghy sailor has onboard, where most class rules limit the assistance of electronic instruments, forcing them to rely on “the seat of their pants” to sail the boat. Restrictions are generally in place for practical reasons – the boats are too wet – or are there to limit spending.

55One popular dinghy class, however, is bucking tradition and has opened its doors to the 21st century. Due to the quality and relative low cost of waterproof, handheld VHF radios, the Lightning class now permits the option of using radio communication for its events. Some of the events this summer that used radios were the 2007 Lightning World Championship in Athens, Greece in July, and more recently, at the 2007 North Americans in August on the Chesapeake Bay.

Speaking to class champion Greg Fisher, he noted that the class has made this option available to the PRO of the event, and it is up to the event organizer if they want to utilize the tool. Fisher was exceedingly pleased with how NA’s PRO Jeff Borland 150
used the radio, where its value went well beyond notifying the fleet of OCS starters, but also was used to keep the competitors in the loop during all pre-start decisions. And while the communication was largely one-way from the committee to the fleet, Fisher recalled that some competitors did use the radio to notify the committee of breakdowns.

Will VHF radios soon be as common in dinghy sailing as hiking boots? For recommendations on which radios are up to the rigors of dinghy sailing, West Marine’s John McGinnis of their Electronics & Navigation Team recommends the following three radios:

Icom M34 floating radio (8678641)
West Marine VHF 55 (7642358)
West Marine VHF 150 (7567019)

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