Reviews


GRIB files - what are they?
With the vast amount of information now available from weather satellites, the World Meteorological Organisation set a standard to allow such information to be gridded and referenced to latitude and longitude. Until recently analysis of this information was a very expensive business and the compiled information was only available to heavily sponsored ocean racers with huge budgets. But almost without noticing, this information is now accessible through the Internet at minimal or even no cost.
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High Speed YoungstersHigh speeds, impressive manoeuvres and two very happy winners are guaranteed by the 2005 Honda RYA Youth RIB Championship, which is being sponsored by Avon Inflatables for the fourth successive year. Each of the two categories – 8-12 year old and 13-16 year old – is competing for the prize of an Avon Adventure 4.5m RIB, complete with a 40-hp Honda 4-stroke engine. Anything to encourage skilled handling of such powerful craft by young people must be applauded.
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Amphibious boats always seem to have a place in our imaginations, and this new RIB has already broken Richard Branson’s cross channel record for amphibious vehicles.
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the power of the future!A boat’s lighting system can often consume far more power than is generally realised. In a search for economy halogen lighting was introduced to replace tungsten, but now LEDs seem the way forward. They not only consume a fraction of the power of halogen lights, but can last up to 160,000 hours. Calibra is now offering compact units, con- taining 3 LEDs, which they say is the equiva- lent of a 30 watt light, but consumes less than half an amp. They are also available in red, which is ideal for night-time illumina- tion. Because they run virtually cold, they can be installed in even the tightest areas. Calibra also has under development LED navigation lights, as well as LEDs to be used as an alternative to halogen bulbs. Calibra Marine International can be contacted on 0870 2400 358
www.calibramarine.com

Dufour yachts at largeDufour, based near La Rochelle in western France, has sailed pretty close to the rocks over the past few years, but they finally seem to have returned to clear waters with a range that represents their original values: good value yachts for the middle market. The Performance range is represented by the 34, 40 and 44 models, while the Grand Large cruising range will be completed by the launch at Southampton of two new models, the 325 and 455, both designed by Umberto Felci.
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It’s good to see a British company making a long-term investment in British boatbuilding. The old-established Northshore company of Itchenor has recently opened new factory premises which, along with its moulding shop in nearby Havant, brings the total employment at the two sites to over 100 people. Their confidence in the future is demonstrated by their workbased apprenticeship scheme, which enables young people to learn the traditional skills of boat building, bringing back a tradition that used to be common in Chichester Harbour.
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RaymarineOn Raymarine’s stand at Southampton will be the first public showing of its new satellite television antenna. This extends the company’s reach into the leisure boating market by providing access to hundreds of digital entertainment channels, with uninterrupted access to subscription and satellite channels while at sea. The 45STV is fully automated, and housed in a compact dome that can quickly locate signals from all DVB-compatible service providers. The pictures can not only be seen on standard on-board TV screens, but also on any of Raymarine’s E-series displays.
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Mobile BroadbandMany cruising people have found out the hard way how expensive mobile phones can be abroad. Subscribers pay for incoming calls and if the message divert is left on, large bills can build up even when the phone is turned off. A dial-up internet connection on a mobile would be ruinously expensive, and prohibitively slow. But used properly, a mobile phone becomes an essential item on board – especially within Europe where coverage is so widespread. A new ‘always-on’ internet connection has now achieved virtually world-wide coverage and allows a mobile phone to access the internet at speeds similar to a dial-up connection on a land-line. GPRS (General Packet Radio Service and not to be confused with GPS) can now be installed simply, to interface a laptop to a mobile phone at a reaonsable cost.
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It was only a matter of time before armchair sailing became a reality - although that’s not how Raymarine are marketing their new wireless controller. This remote hand-held device can control the boat from distances of up to 10 metres from a base station mounted below deck. With a high-contrast repeater displaying other boat information such as speed, course and wind direction, it’s now possible to monitor all the instruments while controlling the boat from a position of comfort. A simpler model, the S100 is also available as a dedicated unit to operate any Raymarine autopilot.