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Thread: Tracking the race ? Discussion ?

  1. #31
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
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    103

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    Hi Bob,

    If it were just the faux-safety of the CG mandating trackers, that is one thing that I could probably swallow as it's just another piece of gear. But now I find out they also require notification if someone is over an hour late for roll-call and will launch an S&R effort if one's radio is out. This non-value added pre-emptive intrusion into private affairs is beyond what I am able to stomach. I really don't want to see a CG helicopter and a bill if I over-sleep after staying up all night dealing with issues. What else did they require in 2010 that I am not aware of? What will they require for this year give the LSC incident? I don't mean to sound like I'm taking it out on the race. I'm really taking it out on the CG, but I understand how I'm coming across.

    I'm very aware of the arguments that say: "if the CG is expected to bail you out, then they rightly should have a say in how you conduct your race." I have two responses to this.
    1) Yes, I agree with the logic. I'm all for regulation that improves safety. We seem to all be in agreement that is not the case here.
    2) I don't expect the CG to bail me out if I get into trouble, nor do I understand the public interest in bailing me out. The risks I take are my responsibility alone, and I take responsibility for them. If I don't take care of myself, I'm fine with meeting my maker, and so is my wife.

    Finally, I don't think I would be taking it out on myself. I don't have to do this race. I sail singlehanded in part as the self-reliance brings my life meaning. As the CG removes self-reliance, the meaning for me is reduced. To be honest reaching & running down to Hawaii doesn't feel like a huge challenge. I'm not competitive enough to have to win or anything like that. It's just something I would like to do as it's the longest SH race on the West Coast. You're right, it is a big disappointment as the boat and I are ready, and the time has been blocked out. But given the nonsensical & intrusive CG terms and conditions of your race that take away the meaning of singlehanded sailing for me, I'd be happier just sailing over to Hawaii or elsewhere on my own. Even if I'd miss the friendly competition and camaraderie of like-minded crazies like me. Maybe things will be more amenable in future editions of the race.

    Anyway, Rob please let me know the CG's terms & conditions for the race.

    Cheers,

    Whitall

  2. #32
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Sausalito
    Posts
    74

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    First of all, let me make it perfectly clear that the Coast Guard is not requiring trackers. I am requiring trackers as a positive response to the Coast Guard's wanting a better line of communication. We've always had a very good relationship with the CG and I intend to keep it that way. When I'm told that having trackers will "go a long way" in making the CG feel comfortable in signing off on our permit, I take that very seriously. We're in a very unique and extremely fluid position right now - we have US Sailing and a new advisory group made up of local sailors working with the CG, and we don't have a clue what the outcome will be. We don't even know if this weekend's Spinnaker Cup is happening yet!

    What we do know is that we want to have a singlehanded race to Hawaii next month and I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that happens. I'm sorry if anyone feels this is an intrusion on their self-reliance or self-sufficiency, but you'll still be sailing to Hawaii by yourself. The tracker isn't going to change that one iota.

    I started singlehanding for the freedom I felt out there. It's the freest I've ever been. I did a lot of singlehanding without being part of an organization or race and I never carried an EPIRB, sat phone, liferaft, etc. To me safety is in my mind, it's not something I can buy. I was attracted to this race for many years and when it was my turn to participate, I was given the list of requirements. I found many of them distasteful but not so much as to stop me from joining. In fact, I wanted that belt buckle so bad that if the RC had required it, I would have stood on my head and sang show tunes throughout every seminar. Nothing was going to stop me from doing the race. I know that many of the racers this year feel the same way so I feel it's my responsibility to do everything I can to ensure the race starts off CYC on June 30 without a hitch.

    As for the wording on the permit, we won't get it until a few days before the start. I have no idea what it will be, but can guess it will be similar to last time's which basically said we had to have daily contact with the racers. As for the 'hour late' check-in hypothetical, the trackers fix that issue. Also, remember that we have to get a permit from Hawaii CG as well, and that's dependent on getting the SF permit.

    As far as the comm plan goes, that hasn't been written yet. There's concern from the boats only carrying sat phones that they won't get position updates. For the last couple of races, the sat phone folks have essentially been penalized, and maybe it's time to move beyond that. For what it's worth, my race would have been completely different had I not had an SSB. I have come to understand that it's essential to the spirit of this race, but others may not be as interested in that aspect of it. I'm looking at some options and I'd appreciate any feedback on ways to get the sat phone people position reports in a quick and efficient manner. I want the comms plan to be fair for everyone.

  3. #33
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
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    521

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    Just to reinforce what Rob said: The Coast Guard has placed no new requirements on ocean races since the LSC incident. They've just asked - OK, directed - all the clubs, plus US Sailing, to take a close look at what they're doing.

  4. #34
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
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    After reviewing the posts in this thread and discussing with Rob over the phone yesterday, I am realizing that the main discussion points are converging. Advances in technology make it possible to readily access positions for the entire fleet and this benefits the Coast Guard, the Race Committee and the Racers.

    As long as we are going to have trackers, why not use them and the services offered by the provider to "broadcast" regular position reports to the entire fleet. Anyone including our comms boats, submitting an e-mail address would receive identical information, and this would be the only allowed method of receiving position information while racing. (I believe this eliminates the concerns on the effort of tabulating sat phone position reports; it is possible that the tracker provider would send the e-mails for us on a schedule). The comms boats would then read out positions during roll call; those interested in chatting after roll call would proceed as normal.

    Check-ins via SSB or Sat Phone should still be required. Any equipment can fail, so in the event a tracker fails, check-ins are the best way to prevent unwarranted SAR missions. If radios or sat phones fail and check-ins are missed then the tracker data provides important information. Some of us will be carrying SSB, sat phone and a tracker, so all three would have to fail in the same time frame before going silent. I would be in favor of establishing a more specific protocol with the Coast Guard on SAR deployment. Clearly, the Coast Guard wants maximum situational awareness, but a threat to deploy 1 hour after a missed check-in seems a bit hollow. Why not go back to them and say that in exchange for carrying trackers we want a more sensible protocol. This could turn into a deeper discussion, but I for one, would be willing to divert my path to check out any nearby racer that had gone silent (no tracker data and no check-in), EPIRB or not. If we agree among the racers to something like this, then the Coast Guard should be willing to relax their deployment schedule.

    Perhaps we can devote some time during the upcoming seminars to discussing. I am hopeful that those of you thinking of retiring over these issues will reconsider.

    Al Germain
    Bandicoot
    Last edited by algwind; 05-24-2012 at 09:52 AM. Reason: spelling

  5. #35
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
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    3,062

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    Al, I know you were personally affected by the permit language in 2010. You did the right thing but it cost you, big-time. That notice language was sprung on us two days before the start in 2010 - I received the local CG permit on June 17th although I had applied for it months before (the start was June 19th). I couldn't say anything then because I was in my "official capacity" as R/C, but that one hour part was totally rediculous and inconsistent with everything this race has been for many of us. Had I been given any time to respond I would have asked them to get real and write something sensible.

    So per your post, what seems to be the "logical next step" is a step too far for me. I personally hope trackers are a one-time band aid to get this race off and then we can go back to our roots.

    Public apology to Rob: I went into this thread wanting to help but fear I've made it more difficult. I'm sorry.

  6. #36
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Posts
    103

    Default Going Dark

    Regarding sending racer positions to satphone only boats, I would suggest emailing positions to all boats, satphone or SSB.

    I did some preliminary web searching and it appears the USCG does not typically bill for S&R efforts, unless they are hoaxes. This is somewhat reassuring but someone should contact them.

    So if we won't know the CG's conditions until a few days prior, that puts me in the position of having to get up there & be ready to go before I really know what's going on. Awkward.

    "Gone Dark" policy is worth discussion among the race committee and then the USCG. We had a boat go dark for maybe 2 days during the Guadalupe Race after his tracker and satphone failed and he could not check in. We shrugged as we felt the probability of him being in real trouble was quite low. SPOTs have to be reset daily and we knew he had trouble charging his phone. Tracker failure and charging problems is all that has to happen to "go dark". I'm trying to imagine scenarios where a dark boat that has not lit off an EPIRB would be in need of outside assistance. The skipper would have to have fallen overboard without a PLB, or be unconscious or incapacitated to the point where he couldn't activate the EPIRB if he wanted to, or I guess the EPIRB could have failed also. My sense is that gear failure is a far more likely occurrence than these 3 scenarios combined.

    But what to do to help the USCG? If a competitor is nearby they could attempt a drive-by based on a last-known position, but it seems that if a boat is dark it would be difficult to locate them except by serendipity. The same is true for the dark boat. Since this boat can't receive positions (unless they have a working SSB receiver as backup) he will be lucky to make physical contact with another boat. So, maybe to get the CG off our backs, satphone boats should carry a backup SSB receiver, SSB boats could carry either a satphone or separate receiver (independent of main electrical system) so if there are problems and they do go dark, they could receive position reports, and I'm sure the Comm boat would broadcast the closest boat's position to proceed towards so the dark boat could locate it. Not that I'm in favor of more equipment requirements, but if it gets the CG off our backs, then maybe.

  7. #37
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    Sep 2007
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    521

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ragnar View Post
    Not that I'm in favor of more equipment requirements, but if it gets the CG off our backs, then maybe.
    I may be totally off base here, but I think you may be overestimating how much the Coast Guard is on your backs. As I wrote a few posts back, they have imposed no new requirements. Rob's addition of trackers was a voluntary initiative, a friendly gesture toward the CG as well as a cool feature for those who will be following the race and a huge labor savor for RC volunteers at home.

    If he goes into the permitting process with the position that launching SAR on the basis of one or two missed checkins is unrealistic and impractical (easy for me to say, I know), and reminding CG that all the boats have EPIRBs, you ought to be able to have a communications protocol very similar to 2010.

    Max

  8. #38
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Posts
    409

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    I've been Down Under for a few weeks so I'm a bit behind in chiming in.

    The trackers we own will not work for a Hawaii race, and the last thing we need, with a big fleet and everyone watching so closely, is for a racer to go silent.
    Why would that be a bad thing? Yes trackers are neat for the viewing public and I will not deny that they provide a "last" position report for a boat that should be fresher than the daily check-in.

    But I remember the caveman days of the SHTP, cira way back in 2000 when check-ins were voluntary and many in the fleet went dark every race.... I did for 8 days as did others for even longer. FYI, EPIRBS were also not available for the first 20 years of this race. Then we required daily check-in with a time penalty if you didn't, now if you miss a check-in all hell breaks loose.

    Remember, just because an electronics gizmo isn't working doesn't mean that racer is in distress. And I think you are all forgetting the failure rate of these devices and usually at least a few of these trackers stop working every race that has utilized them, EVERY race.

    If the coast guard isn't requiring them then I don't understand why we are trying to make nice with them by adding this unnecessary device that also adds considerable expense a month and change before the race? If we are adding it for entertainment purposes, fine but don't be delousonal that they will add any safety.

    The USCG doesn't have a right or legal mandate to tell us that our race even needs check-ins at all, which we don't. Please cite the Federal regulation that states the USCG, to issue a race permit, requires more than a sounding device, pdf and 3 red flares, or such?

    We should run our race as we see fit, not try to fix something that is NOT broken.

    The slippery slope - nanny state saling continues to gain momentum. Are we to require and utilize every piece of "supposed" safety gear that comes along? Where will it end?

    Is it really true that if a boat misses a check-in the USCG goes into rescue mode, even though no one has called out for assistance?

    How about this scenario... A racers entire electronics system fails, his sat phone dies, the tracker dies and the USCG goes into action even though the boats EPIRB hasn't been set off..... Then they boat is located or finishes in Hawaii without issue but the USGC is now really upset that they spends 100s of thousands on a false search.

    The SSS is setting themselves up for a bad situation, mark my words. Self reliance is a thing of the past I guess.

  9. #39
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    49

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    I have been following this thread with great interest. I have not done the race, but have spent some time at sea. I can see both sides of the argument and the emotions they provoke. In my view, there are the following points in regard to trackers:

    Cons:

    - Invasion of privacy.
    - Cost.
    - Possible failure causing problems.
    - Due to checkins, everybody knows roughly where you are anyway.

    Pros
    - Family and spectators like it.
    - Race committee likes it.
    - Throws the Coasties a bone when there may be public pressure to act.
    - Trackers did provide evidence in the Ensenada/Aegean disaster.
    - May help an investigation if you are rundown by a ship.
    - They might replace the requirement for SSB or satphone checkins in the future which would be cheaper and probably more reliable.
    - Coast Guard will probably not monitor them.

    In my opinion, safety would much better served by requiring AIS transmitters. Ships and competitors can see you if you are too close. Contact goes into the ship's log. You can call a contact by name. I have had close encounters with ships both with and without AIS and I would much rather have it.

    As for self reliance, that is an attitude. I know some of the people in this group. I believe that they would do anything to resolve an issue themselves. I would cite Sparky and to a lesser degree Saraband as examples. Self reliance was probably lost with the advent of GPS, EPIRBS and the availability weather reports.

    There have been serious problems on the return trips for the last two races. The Coast Guard was called in to help.

    I'm not sure that I know of anyone who wouldn't push the button on that EPIRB, should the ultimate need arise.

    Respectfully,
    -jak

  10. #40
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Posts
    409

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    In my opinion, safety would much better served by requiring AIS transmitters. Ships and competitors can see you if you are too close. Contact goes into the ship's log. You can call a contact by name. I have had close encounters with ships both with and without AIS and I would much rather have it.
    This is even worse in my opinion. First, I don't know of any AIS transponders under $600+. 2nd they have to be on all the time dramatically changing the energy budget, especially of smaller boats. I was a very early adopter of an AIS receiver, that I turn on as I see fit. However in the ocean I often have "all" instruments off during the day, except for the VHF and possibly autopilot to conserve electrons and maximize solar charging. Then there is the competitive equation.... If I decide to gybe south to move away from the high I don't need to broadcast it to all competitors 50-100 miles away. They can find out on the next check-in my position.

    There are lots of great electronic

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