Unveiling the Cutting-Edge Navigation Tools Steering Clipper Race Across Oceans
Sailing by its very nature is the art of navigating the seas.
As Race Crew take on the epic challenge of circumnavigating the globe, they will be faced with changing weather conditions, ocean currents, wind patterns, and potential hazards. On board each Clipper Race yacht, Clipper Race Skippers, AQPs, and Race Crew have access to a range of navigational tools to enhance their safe navigation and performance. This equipment is courtesy of a trio of advanced Navigational Suppliers; Timezero; Garmin; and Bookharbour.
For accurate weather reporting, and planning the fastest route possible on the race, the matched fleet of yachts are equipped with the renowned Timezero ‘TZ professional’. This advanced piece of software offers features such as polars (wind, speed, and sails) and the functionality to overlay weather forecasts and current GRIBs. (GRIBS are files designed to exchange and store large volumes of gridded data and are used in Numerical Prediction models such as Weather Research Forecast.) The software provides unrivalled performance and usability for the Race Skippers and their teams.
Ineke Van der Weijden, skipper of Perseverance – the winning team of Race 1 of the Clipper 2023-24 Race said “Timezero is a user-friendly interface that lets us assess our weather, plan our route, monitor our progress, and check for other vessels. It is typically the first thing I look at when I get up and the last thing before going to bed.”
As an official supplier to the Clipper Race for five editions, multinational technology brand, Garmin, has supplied the fleet with Premium Chart Plotter GPS maps, to track fluid position and heading changes, and update rates of 10 times per second. Its Blue Chart G3 provides industry-leading coverage, clarity, and detail with updated coastal charts and additional technology to equip skippers and crew members with all the essential data pertaining to the location and speed of the yacht at all times.
“When it comes to the world of navigation, and in particular Maritime Navigation, there are few companies that can rival Garmin for excellence, innovation and support” says Clipper Race Director, Mark Light.
Speaking about how the Garmin products are used on the Clipper Race, Our Isles and Oceans skipper Max Rivers says, “On board, our Garmin Chartplotter is always switched on and it is always tracking every single move we make, and every change in the wind. Not only can it do navigation, but it also displays to us the current wind information that we have set up to track us historically for a rolling six hours, meaning that we can see trends and catch changes in the weather as early as possible. It also allows us to confirm that any changes we think we are seeing are real.”
Before the advancement of navigational technology, mariners would have used or created nautical charts to enable them to plot their course and know exactly where they were in relation to hazards and land, or to simply see how they were progressing along their voyage.
The Clipper Race fleet is no different in that they carry a multitude of nautical paper charts on their journey around the globe.
These charts are all updated with regular Notices to Mariners which are published and downloaded and provide the backup to the electronic navigation aids should there be a failure of such equipment on board.
In addition to paper charts, the ocean racing yachts are required to carry a vast array of nautical publications to support pilotage in and out of harbours and landfall, as well as enable celestial navigation calculations to be made (another dying art of seafarers' past).
Clipper Race Director Mark Light says: “When you think of approximately 130 paper charts per yacht for eleven yachts, and several different official publications, it is easy to see why we rely on Bookharbour so much in preparing the Clipper Race Fleet for their circumnavigation.”
“It's never good practice to only rely on chart plotters and navigation software, that's why on board Yacht Club Punta del Este we plot our position in paper charts every four hours when we are in the middle of the Ocean, every two hours when we are offshore of the coast and every hour when we are inshore” Race Skipper Nano Antia adds.
Teams that master the skills of using routing software, weather charts, and AIS, to navigate the complex and changing conditions of the oceans, often find the most success in competitive ocean racing.