Sailing on the Internet

Pete Sykes (Port Edgar YC), Ken Turner (Loch Ard SC)


Introduction
Email
Net News
World Wide Web
What Is Actually Available?
More Information
Conclusion

This is an adaptation of the article Sailors Surf The Web!, written by the authors and published in Yachting Life, April 1996. Since then, the Internet has become much more widely used so the following is just of historical interest.

Introduction

Two Scottish clubs - Loch Ard Sailing Club and Port Edgar Yacht Club - were among the first to create web pages to publicise their activities to the tens of millions of people who use the Internet. A brief trawl through the Internet soon starts to reveal a vast amount of information that may be of interest to sailors; much of it is of very high quality. In fact if the UK sailor wanted up-to-date America's Cup results last year, the Internet would probably be the best place to go for a daily update. The sailing magazines can be weeks behind, and the news media may not give much coverage.

So what is there for the sailor on the Internet?

Email

Electronic mail is probably the oldest Internet communications application. Basically Email is very similar to writing a letter, addressing it and sending it. The message will be delivered - connections permitting - within minutes to destinations around the world. What makes email much more interesting is the idea of the mail list. When you send an email message to a list address it is automatically delivered to everybody who subscribes to the list. As an example, the Laser Class claim to be the first class to have set up an email list to enable sailors all over the world to chat about their boats, disseminate results and share racing hints.

There are many other mail lists: some are based on classes, some are based on areas, some are broad (i.e. yachting in general), some are a bit more specialised (e.g. amateur wooden boat construction). But all work in the same way - one message sent to one address is copied to the entire forum, and any of the recipients may reply either in private or publically to the forum.

Newsgroups

Newsgroups work rather like an electronic bulletin-board. The news is divided up into newsgroups that deal with specific subjects. There are many newsgroups organised in a hierarchy. For example `rec' deals with recreation, and `rec.boats' deals with - guess what? This in turn is divided up into subjects like boat-building, rowing and racing. Related newsgroups of interest to the sailor deal with other watersports and countries you might wish to visit on a sailing holiday.

It is not necessary to register your interest in a newsgroup. You just tell your news reader which groups you want to monitor. Like email, newsgroups are truly international. Popular newsgroups will have hundreds of thousands of members, so it is very easy to reach a large audience. Equally you should watch what you say. Anyone who offends the rules of network etiquette is in for trouble!

The way a newsgroup works is that people post articles to it, much like sending email. A neat feature is that someone can reply to your article publically, so that everyone sees the response. If the subject is controversial, then others may reply to the response and so on. In this way, it is possible to have a very lively and effective public debate. Since everything is handled electronically, the contributors could be continents apart and it does not matter.

Virtually all newsgroups are public: anyone can post a note about anything relevant to the subject. Frequently this is used to get advice. Maybe you are not sure about how to interpret luffing rights just before the start of a race? Ask the racing newsgroup! There is an international community of sailors out there who are usually willing to help. Rules questions are often vigorously debated. The International Sailing Federation rules have had a good airing too. Newsgroups are also used for topical information. For example, major sailing events like the Americas Cup will be reported and discussed as they happen. Joining a newsgroup is like having the world's sailors in your living room for a good chat!

World Wide Web

The World Wide Web (WWW, or just `The Web') was originally written as a tool for particle physicists to help them in searching for references in scientific papers. This has now grown to include all the subjects you could ever imagine and the same rule applies. If something is referenced in what you are reading, then just click on it and the computer follows the link to that article for you.

In fact using the Web is like exploring a magic labyrinth. As you click on things of interest, you are transported to other locations. You do not even need to know where these are. One minute you might be connected to a computer in the UK, the next you might be online to Nova Scotia.

What Is Actually Available?

The International Sailing Federation is probably one of the major players in provision of Internet sailing resources. The master page of their site holds links to their weekly magazine, major regatta information, a reference library of classes, schools, clubs, suppliers, services, and of course the International Sailing Federation rules. This is the formal face of Internet yachting with a professional editorial team holding it all together.

The last link in the chain is to tie the 3 main services together; from the World Wide Web you can access news groups and send email. If you look at the Laser Class Web pages, you will be able to choose the mail list. This will let you review what has been said recently and sign up to receive email if you want to join in.

More Information

For more information you should try some of the following Web pages.

International Sailing Federationwww.sailing.org
Loch Ard Sailing Clubwww.lochardsc.org.uk
Port Edgar Yacht Clubwww.peyc.org.uk
RYAwww.rya.org.uk

Conclusion

The Internet offers access to a multitude of sailing information collated by individuals, sailing clubs, class organisations, sailing companies, and the national and international bodies that promote sailing. It is often up-to-date with the latest results, and puts you in touch with people who share the same interests. If you have access to an Internet account then off you go! It has a lot to offer to sailors.


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Last Update: 17th February 2010
URL: http://www.cs.stir.ac.uk/~kjt/sailing/sail-net/sail-net.html