Maintaining the Information Barrier
Published on January 21st, 2019
(January 21, 2019; Day 205) – Sailors have been making use of the Amateur Radio net (ham radio) for decades, and while National telecommunication authorities have often turned a deaf ear to unlicensed operators using made-up call signs while at sea, warnings from a National regulator to Golden Globe Race skippers has created intrigue into an exciting finale for race leaders.
Modern navigation and routing tools are restricted from use in the 2018-19 contest, limiting GGR skippers to the type of equipment available for the inaugural Sunday Times Golden Globe solo non-stop round the world race in 1968-69. That includes Amateur Radio.
The skippers have been using this free communication system to gain weather forecasts and maintain contact with their teams, which is allowed under the Race Rules. However, it is the responsibility of each skipper to ensure that they abide by National and International regulations which Jean-Luc Van Den Heede (above) and Mark Slats, in first and second in the race, have not been doing.
Said the warning, “You use an amateur callsign and are making connections with amateur radio operators. The call sign letters are not registered, and thus illegal. I ask you to stop. If you have a legal amateur callsign then I urge you to present it.”
In Britain, the Amateur Radio net is controlled by OFCOM, which recently revoked more than 500 licenses for non-compliance. This includes communicating with unregistered radio operators. The maximum penalty is 6 months in prison, a £5,000 fine and loss of their license.
“French and Dutch passions, already roused by the prospect of a nail-biting finish between Jean-Luc Van Den Heede and Mark Slats, were stirred further when it became clear that first Mark, and then Jean-Luc, did not have valid Ham radio licenses,” said Race Chairman Don McIntyre.
“Then other accusations began to fly between the two camps, the most serious being that Jean-Luc may have been breaching the rules governing weather routing and position reports. One transcribed Jean-Luc radio recording proved to be a simple weather forecast and not weather routing. Some have suggested that there are other recordings of these breaches, but after continued requests by GGR officials to hear them, these recordings remain ‘unavailable’.
“The GGR Notice of Race is very clear, but some do not appear to understand how the GGR skippers operate and what the rules actually mean. GGR is confident that no entrants have received weather routing, which is forbidden, nor LAT/LONG positions of their own and other yachts.
“However, to stop any further confusion, the French GGR Ham network has stopped broadcasting any weather information to Jean-Luc Van Den Heede and Mark Slats, and now transmit relevant information including forecasts only to the other competitors – Uku Randmaa, Istvan Kopar and Tapio Lehtinen – who all hold valid Ham Radio licenses.”
The 2018 Golden Globe Race started for 17 skippers from Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday July 1, 2018, with the inaugural solo non-stop around the world yacht race expected to take 9-10 months to complete.
The event marks the 50th anniversary of the Sunday Times Golden Globe solo non-stop round the world race in 1968-69 when rules then allowed competitors to start from ports in northern France or UK between June 1st and October 31st.
A notable twist to the 2018 Golden Globe Race format is how entrants are restricted to using the same type of yachts and equipment that were available in that first race, with the premise being to keep the race within financial reach of every dreamer.
The rules allow for one breach of the strict solo, non-stop un-assisted circumnavigation without the aid of modern electronic navigation aids regulations that make this Race unique. However, those that do move down to the Chichester Class as if, like Sir Francis Chichester in 1966-67, they have made one stop during their solo circumnavigation.
Those who breach the rules for a second time are deemed to have retired from the GGR Event and the organisers have no responsibility or obligation to them.