Communications & Tracking Updates for 2024 Homeward Bound and Caribbean Rallies

Prospective offshore rally participants should be aware that the SDSA requires each participant to have two devices capable of two-way communications with our shoreside teams, and that one of these devices must support long form email. Additionally, each participant must be able to automatically transmit their position to our tracking map at least four times daily.

Beginning with the 2024 Homeward Bound Rally, we are standardizing our accepted tracking devices. The only acceptable tracking devices are the Garmin inReach family and the Zoleo Communicator. It is worth noting that each of these devices can be one of the required communication devices as well (but not for long form email).

Rally Tracking Update

The ability to track boats during our offshore rallies is extremely important. It allows the rally shoreside team to know the location of vessels in case of emergencies–both the boat in distress and nearby boats which potentially could offer assistance. Tracking also allows the weather router to see which boats might be affected by adverse weather and advise on how to avoid it. 

Historically, the mainstay of rally tracking has been the Iridium GO and the Garmin Inreach. In a typical offshore rally, approximately half the boats use inReach for reporting their position. Other  options, e.g., Predictwind, Datahub, and YellowBrick are also used, although less frequently. One of the most challenging tasks for the rally has been getting boats to successfully set up their communications equipment, particularly with Iridium GO. We also are witnessing more issues with the reliability of the Iridium GO due to GPS signal strength, battery and charging issues, and SIM cards. 

Given these challenges, we will no longer support Iridium GO for position reporting in rallies. To simplify the tracking process, YellowBrick and Datahub also will no longer be supported. Instead, we will  focus exclusively on Satellite communicators for reporting tracking positions. 

The purchase price and monthly fees for satellite communication devices are less expensive than Iridium GO. As half of rally vessels presently have an Inreach onboard, these boats will not have any changes.  For other vessels, we also will support Zoleo, which is a lower purchase price device than inReach ($200 vs. $400). We recommend rally participants purchase one of these devices for their tracking device. However, we do recognize for some, purchasing a different tracking device instead of using one they already own is a burden. For those vessels, we will offer the use of a Zoleo from a stock of previously-owned devices provided to us from Zoleo. While there will be a $100 deposit to ensure return, there is no rental fee. However, the user will be responsible for the set-up and the monthly fees associated with the device (minimum term is 3 months). If the device is not returned to us after the 3 months, the user will sacrifice the deposit, but can keep the device.

What does this mean for vessels with Iridium GO, Datahub or YellowBrick? While you can continue using those devices to report your position to PredictWind or your other favorite tracking page, we will require either an inReach or Zoleo to report your position for future rallies. 

Questions? Send an email to Director of Safety and Communications, Tim Metcalf [email protected]