In the last couple of years particularly there has been a revolution in marine electronics. I caught up with this recently and was completely astonished by what information you can now get, real time, with an internet connection and a GPS antenna bolted to an iPad or equivalent. Add a couple of watch brands to the mix and you can not only navigate anywhere in the world by looking at your wrist, you can receive all sorts of information whilst sitting on the rail, ostensibly, checking the count down time.
I last looked into this seriously some three years ago and those of you who read the posts at the time will remember that we altered our Class Rules to manage the technology then available. Now, its at a whole new level and, as a Class, we should be aware of this and, if necessary, adjust our rules again to account for it. I am not saying that any of it would necessarily provide a significant advantage on a Sonata race course, neither am I saying that anyone might be tempted to use it to gain advantage, albeit they could do it without anyone else realising what they were doing. Its just for the Class to be aware what is out there at very little expense and which way we might want to jump as a pure one design Class with an ethos of maintaining at least some of Dave Thomas’s concept of a “family cruiser”, toilet, cushions, etc.
Sorry for the delay in response.
Personally I would be quite happy if we took a very relaxed view on what we allowed from an electronics perspective.
I have long been of a chart and Douglas Protractor persuasion and certainly kept that position on board both of my boats, telling myself that I would not move to a GPS plotter until at least both my lads had a rudimentary knowledge of the basics of chart work. They now have that, but the reality is that they always had far more information on their phones with a Navionics app than I will ever carry inside my chart table. The apps are cheap, regularly updated and when rock-hopping against the tide are more user friendly than a chart flapping in the wind etc.
Phones are already banned in many sailing instructions from being used during a race, on the grounds they might be used to obtain external information, but as you suggest, who is to know whether the person on the rail is using a standard Casio stopwatch or a GPS watch with boat speed, VMG etc?
Other electronics are proportionally cheaper than they used to be, use less power than their predecessors and are more reliable. Again, I can see little ongoing argument for saying we should exclude them from the class. The fast sailors will still be fast, with or without the instruments, and the less fast sailors on’t be able to hide behind equipment restrictions for their lack of skill or practice!
The biggest risk I see to the class moving forward is failing to attract more people into the class and anything we can do to assist people to make that move the better. Many of the people who might aspire to helm a Sonata might also crew on bigger more exotic stuff where electronics for VMG, lay lines, start line etc are routinely used so allowing them to use those bits of kit on a Sonata and practise their skills would be valuable.
Lets have a sensible rule on electronics that shows we are of the 21st century……….personally I would propose we have no restrictions on electronics!