High-Tech Device Keeps Track of Rally Participants

All 70 boats sailing in the Caribbean 1500 will be equipped with Axonn tracking devices.

CaribTracker368

Follow the progress of this year's Caribbean 1500 at www.carib1500.comSteve Black

There's something new and different about the 18th annual Caribbean 1500 Rally, which leaves Hampton, Virginia, on November 4, for a 1,500-mile seven- to 10-day offshore passage to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. This year, all 70 boats will be equipped with Axonn wireless transmitters.

Before the fleet leaves Hampton, each boat will have the battery-operated tracking device installed. The devices are on loan to each participating boat, courtesy of the Cruising Rally Association, host of the event. And Steve Black, president of the CRA, is certain these devices will be used in upcoming rallies that his organization sponsors. "Once these devices exist," says Black, "it seems the only right thing to do is use them. I really feel they'll become part of ocean racing"

Black chose the Axonn model for a variety of reasons, with the safety of rally participants high on the list. "Now we'll have an added way of knowing where the boats are," he says. "We'll know something's up if all of a sudden, someone makes a 90-degree turn."

Black also gives the Axonn high marks for toughness, durability, and simplicity. "These things can be installed in under a minute," he says. "Another part of the beauty is that they can pass through fiberglass."

It's up to individual owners to decide where they want to put the transmitter. Black says that near the nav station is a popular site as well as under the dodger, where it's unlikely that something could smash into it.

The transmitter is compact and light: 6 x9 inches, 3/4-inch thick, and it weighs in at just a half a pound. Black describes the device as industrial in nature and says it has gone through intensive vibration and temperature testing. And apparently, it's even been "sailor-tested." Nothing is required of these self-contained transmitters, so no on needs to to touch them. "That type of reliability becomes extremely important," says Black, "when you're dealing with a group of people who like to fiddle with things."

Every boat's position will be broadcast via the Globalstar satellite network (www.globalstar.com) six times a day, every four hours. And each boat's track will be displayed on the Caribbean 1500 website (www.carib1500.com) using Magnalox software (www.magnalox.com).