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Its all about VMG :-)

The Vendee Globe is such a tremendous test of seamanship. It is fascinating to see how the navigation diecisions make such a big diferenece even at the early stages.

As ever, it is about speed versus the most direct route, what sailors call VMG, or velocity made good.

Sébastien Josse, on the British-built BT, was back in the lead at the time of writing, but the first 14 boats are within 70 miles of each other as they race south downwind towards Madeira. Mike Golding, on Ecover 3, was the leading British boat, 57 miles behind. Josse was further east of the fleet, touching the high-pressure system in the Azores, and should be able to gybe before those closer to the coast of Portugal, who are sailing the more direct route.

This video is from the VG site and shows the preparation that is made in terms of thinking through weather systems, loading weather profiles for each region into the onboard laptops, and even designing the hull shapes to take advantage of any prevailing tendencies in the weather systems.


Three French Skippers Defeated!

The early stages of the Vendee Globe are turning out to be be typically tough. So many starts have seen yachts dismasted or hit bad weather that is so bad they race has to be re-started! This year has been no different with 3 yachts withdrawn. Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss has suffered a huge crack in the French built Hugo Boss. Pascal Conq, one half of Finot-Conq, the French team that designed the boat is very pessimistic about getting the boat back in the race. Rough seas also forced Marc Thiercelin and Kito de Pavant to quit after losing their masts. Yannick Bestaven’s mast snapped during a storm on Monday and he was heading back to Les Sables d’Olonne to repair the damage. Bestaven becomes the third French skipper to quit after losing his mast.

Several other sailors have experienced problems because of the heavy weather during the sixth edition of the single-handed race, and returned to port for repairs.


ShipPlotter Fanatics are all over the UK :-)

If you have read up on AIS including posts here on this blog you may recall that AIS uses very short bursts of high speed data on two VHF channels in the marine band. The two frequencies used are 161.975 (Marine ch 87) and 162.025 (ch 88) MHz. Ships broadcast their identity, position, course, speed and destination so that other ships can take account of their movements.

Liverpool AISUsing a low cost radio scanner tuned to one or other of these channels and ShipPlotter software running on your PC, you will be able to see a radar-like real-time map of all the large ships manoeuvering in your area together with information about their destination, estimated time of arrival and even the dimensions of each vessel.

ShipPlotter decodes the AIS digital signals from each ship using the sound card in your PC. You need a suitable VHF band radio receiver tuned to one of the two AIS channels. The program decodes the received digital data and displays it in a variety of formats.

Well it seems I had forgotten about the AIS site that is run by a group of “ShipPlotter” enthusiasts. The ShipAIS site has a strong focus on the Liverpool and Irish sea area..but there are enthusiasts all over the place! and so an entire map of the UK can be derived showing ship movements all around the UK coast.

Ellandess AISUsing this site you can even search for specific boats. Take the newly launched super yacht Elandess for example …here you can see it leaving the UK waters heading for Gibraltar on 13 Sept – at full speed of 16Kts.



There is an interesting forum attached to this site too…have a look at. http://forum.shipais.com/ which has plenty of AIS related debate, links and photos too.


Live AIS data for the English Channel..

Earlier this year I commended Martin Waller in East Anglia for his live AIS site – well now we have a similar site based right on the English Channel. This site is a fantastic aid for all English Channel sailors and power boaters Saltdean AIS.

Here you can see data being updated every 5 mins for the shipping transmitting AIS data in the English Channel. You can even get detailed charts for many of the major ports along the Channel.

Saltdean AIS

You can see how clearly the Traffic Separation Scheme is marked by the traffic and in the following chart you can also see the very congested display of ships name – a clearer table display can be seen on the Saltdean AIS site itself.

Saltdean AIS - 2


The author also provide a KMZ file that you van download and display using Google Earth.

Saltdean AIS - 3


What a great job! This shows off so many new technologies both hardware and software, in one fell swoop …and its useful for mariners too!


Natural Navigation…no batteries included

big dipperI received an interesting comment on my posting “Identifying stars while navigating at night…”

The comment was “I operate at the opposite end of the spectrum from electronics in one sense, but I still think that electronics has a valuable role to play in helping us to understand nature. I use the Stellarium software regularly and think it is a great example of nature and technology not being enemies.“…and it was made by a very accomplished navigator Tristan Gooley.

Tristan has long held a passion in natural navigation and his interest stems from his hands-on experience. Tristan is a prolific adventurer. He has led expeditions in five continents, climbed mountains in Europe, Africa and Asia, sailed small boats across oceans and piloted small aircraft to Africa and the Arctic.

He is the second man to have both flown and sailed solo across the Atlantic. He completed the first part of the challenge flying a single-engined Cessna Caravan from Goose Bay, Canada, to Oxford, England, in May 2007. The second part of the challenge involved sailing his Contessa 32 ‘Golden Eye’ solo across the Atlantic. Tristan used the challenge to raise awareness of prostate cancer, and to pay tribute to Steve Fossett , the only other person known to have achieved both solo feats.

I didnt know that Tristan ran courses for sailors – and not far from where I am based too. He has certainly got me thinking about my own lack of knowledge when it comes to “navigating naturally”…check out his web site Natural Navigation ..no batteries required !