How useful is an AIS receiver on a yacht? Dee Caffari evaluates this safety breakthrough

Earlier this week I asked Dee Caffari, who has been racing her Open 60 Aviva out of the Channel and round Ushant on the opening gambit of the Transat Jacques Vabre to rate the usefulness of one of the most important safety breakthroughs this decade – or last.

I asked Dee for her assessment of AIS, or Automatic Identification System, a bit of kit that ought to be a massive help in avoiding collision at sea, and particularly of being run down by a ship. They might not see you, but with AIS you would know where they are even in atrocious vis, along with their course, speed, closest point of approach and time to CPA.

Here’s Dee’s evaluation from her Open 60 Aviva:

‘All OC Events races and the Figaro make an AIS receiver compulsory on their races. It will only be a matter of time before IMOCA [the Open 60 class] also have it in their handbook.

‘I am now a complete fan.
Our receiver is linked to our MaxSea electronic charting software. Some people have it linked to their radar. Anyone with a transponder transmits their ship’s name, Call sign, MMSI number, cargo, last port of call, next port of call, etc and also if there is a risk of collision with your position this all comes up on our screen.

‘This allows us to see what is coming, the other vessel’s SOG and COG and if he poses a threat so we can avoid early. It also allows you to call a name or call sign rather than hope an approximate position is enough to make them answer the VHF.’

You can read more on Elaine Bunting’s blog