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Radar for Sailing

Radar for sailing has come on leaps and bounds in the past decade. A far cry from the bulky, heavy and power-hungry radar antennae of old, the latest generation of pulse compression radars draw minimal power, weigh less than 5kg and deliver excellent resolution at close and long range. But why do you need Radar on your boat?

Put simply, radar will show what is around the boat, seeing through darkness, precipitation and poor visibility. Whether you’re crossing a busy shipping channel in thick fog, looking for squalls offshore, or identifying a harbour entrance in the dark, Radar offers a significant aid to navigation and safety.

Radar has applications both inshore and offshore for sailing boats – and it’s not just for collision avoidance. We asked professional navigators Simon Fisher and Miranda Merron how they use radar on board. Simon is a five-times competitor in the Volvo Ocean race, navigating Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing to victory in 2015, while Miranda is an IMOCA sailor and previously navigated an all-female team to successfully take the outright Round Britain and Ireland record in 2009. Both have used Radar extensively to keep them at the top of their game. 

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Sailing Offshore

“Offshore, Radar is a really good tool for tracking squalls and one I have relied on for many years” says Simon. “It can be especially useful at night to show you far it will be until you can escape out the other side of the cloud you are wrestling with. The information from the radar can give you an idea of how big a squall is,  the direction and speed it is moving, as well as what phase a cloud might be in.  A massive cloud that is building with no rain behaves quite differently to one that comes with a significant amount of rain.”

B&G’s new HALO radars offer Weather Mode, which fine-tunes the radar to detect clouds and weather systems at long ranges, displaying them in full colour.  Miranda Merron, writing during the recent Transat Jacques Vabre, has put her radar to good use. "Since sunset, there have been almost non-stop squallmonster attacks. The last one lasted over an hour. It is very dark, and the last sliver of moon has yet to rise. Impossible to see what is heading our way. However, we have been using a B&G radar which is a complete revelation to us, having previously been used to much older technology. Right now, at 3 o'clock in the morning, I can see in colour on the radar screen that the next squall is only 2 miles away and has the boat firmly in its sights..."

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Inshore sailing

“When ocean racing boats close the coast, they are still sailing at full pelt, but now the emphasis is on collision avoidance” says Simon. Closer to shore, fishing fleets, floating and fixed hazards of all shapes and sizes become key to identify, especially when there is also plenty of traffic that might not be using AIS.  Being able to display both AIS targets and the Radar targets on the same display means you can quickly assimilate all the data and check them off with the guys on deck in the hope that nothing is missed.”

B&G’s new HALO radars are able to see right up to the bow of your boat, and even distinguish small objects like mooring buoys and posts – meaning that, in harbour mode, you can nose your way up a channel in thick fog and see everything overlaid on one screen. A Chart, Radar and AIS, all combined on one screen will really bring your surroundings to life.

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Radar image overlaid on a chart means you can distinguish fixed navigation marks and coastal features from moving vessels - even in fog.

VelocityTrack Doppler technology

Pulse-compression radar technology allows for significant gains in safety and functionality - none more so than VelocityTrack Doppler technology. This colours 'dangerous' approaching targets yellow, highlighting them on the screen so you can immediately identify them  and take avoiding action if required by the ColRegs. Once safely past, they turn blue to distinguish them from your surroundings. VelocityTrack comes into its own in crowded waterways, especially where a sailing yacht is being overtaken by a faster, larger vessel. No longer will they sneak up behind you - now you can keep tabs on them whatever the conditions. HALO20+ and HALO24 also feature 60rpm operation at close range - that's one sweep per second - which will keep you updated in near- real time. 


VelocityTrack distinguishes dangerous targets (yellow) from their surroundings.

Radar vs. AIS?

AIS would appear to offer an easy to use and low-cost alternative to Radar – and it has many advantages. You can see nearby vessels and aids to navigation overlaid on your chart, find out their name, speed, heading and details, see if they are a collision risk and even call them directly on the radio. But it’s key to understand that AIS only shows on your chartplotter screen if a vessel is transmitting – plus, it won’t detect objects without AIS transmitters and the rate of transmission, especially at low speed can mean that the data could be up to 3 minutes old.

Adding AIS and radar together gives you the advantages of both. You can use AIS to identify and confirm which targets are vessels under way, while the radar will still display targets that are not transmitting on AIS.

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You can see the time delay on the AIS target as opposed to the yellow radar target - the Radar target is much more accurate.

Whether you’re crossing a shipping lane, racing offshore or keeping tabs on the vessels around you on a busy waterway, radar will ensure you are able to sail in safety whatever conditions you head out in. Choose B&G's new HALO radomes for the ultimate in safety and target detection and relax in the knowledge that you are equipped with the best radar for sailing, whatever the weather.

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