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Cowes Week Radio Communications, Officially Supplied by Icom UK

29 July 2009

CowesSince 1826 Cowes Week has played a key part in the British sporting summer calendar and is one of the UK’s longest running and most successful sporting events. It now stages up to 40 daily races for around 1,000 boats and is the largest sailing regatta of its kind in the world. Radio communication supplier, Icom UK is proud to be the official radio communication supplier to Cowes Week, continuing its long association with the event. Over a period of eight years, the company has supplied a range of VHF marine radio equipment to the organisers to help ensure that the event is one of the best-managed sailing regattas in the world.

The Icom radio equipment is primarily used to provide communication between race officers both on and offshore allowing them to co-ordinate race starts, set courses and marshal the competitors. The radios are also used for other tasks such as communicating with other vessels (including commercial shipping and ferries) and arranging for collection of VIP’s. The Icom radios are also used to communicate details of courses and starting signals to competitors at the regatta who start each day either from the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS) or in the Solent from a committee boat.

Stuart Quarrie, CEO of Cowes Week Limited comments: ‘We have a wide range of Icom radio equipment that we use during Cowes Week. The handheld sets are invaluable pieces of equipment used by the race management team as well as by our beachmasters and launch service co-ordinators. They are also act as a backup for castle 1 & 2 calling stations.’

Two of the radios in use on the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS) platform are Icom base stations. They have a special private channel comprising the normal international shore station transmit frequency for channel 28 as both transmit and receive. During a start sequence, the RYS platform transmits to the competitors on this frequency and also to a committee boat at the far end of the start line. The courses (and any other information) are then transmitted back to the platform from the committee vessel, again using the simplex channel 28. This means that the competitors receive the course details sent to them twice, on a frequency that they cannot interrupt.

As you can imagine, managing racing for around 1,000 boats is no mean feat. This is why the fixed radios are installed onboard the race committees’ fleet of RIBS and are integral in assisting the marshalling. The radios assist the organisers in making sure that boats get to the starting line on time and that none have infringed any rules.

Paul Crabb has responsibility for managing the equipment that ensures Cowes Week runs smoothly. He has designed and produced two fully portable IC-M505 VHF/DSCs which have been made using heavy duty, waterproof, allegedly indestructible Peli-cases. Each box has been modified by cutting the lid (as you would a dashboard) to accept the IC-M505 which has then been bracketed and silicon sealed in. The side of the box has also been fitted with a power and antenna connector, so the unit could remain closed and waterproof whilst working. To avoid any possible confusion, one set is in a silver box and fitted with the simplex half of channel 27) whilst the other set is in gold box fitted with P1 (the private half of channel 28) to avoid any possible confusion. Both sets are powered by motorcycle batteries.

When asked about the importance of an organised radio communication infrastructure, Paul Crabb responds: ‘With the huge amount of activity on and off the water it is important that we have defined procedures, organised infrastructure and good quality communications; we get all of this from our work with Icom.’

He added, ‘Good quality service backup is an absolute priority. Icom deliver this in an exemplary manner that is second to none. As an ex service engineer I can’t praise this highly enough.

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