AIS Sat Phones and HF Radio

PUBLISHED FRI 09 APR 2021 – Australian Sailing

The electronic equipment required by the Special Regulations has been updated changing its requirements for Sat Phones and HF radio

The development of new technologies, cheaper electronic equipment and evolving search and rescue systems has led Australian Sailing to change the Special Regulations relating to sat phones and HF radio, and other related electronic equipment.

From 1 July 2021 category 1 and 2 races will offer the carriage of a sat phone as an alternative to HF radio. However, a race-organiser can still mandate the use of HF. Sat phones have been included because as technology advances, reliance on HF is on the decline.

Reliance on HF radio does have its problems. DSC alerts and emergency radio transmissions won’t be received if a yacht has the HF radio turned off because of the drain on power. The alternative of a sat phone consumes significantly less power, is quieter and can be left on constantly and hence receive alerts.

The sat phone used for category 1 and 2 races will need to have an alternative antenna to cover the situation where the antenna capability is lost due to a dismasting. The most popular satellite phones such as Inmarsat and Iridium have built-in antennas which satisfy the need for an alternative antenna. Some sat phone models also have an external antenna port.

Also applying from 1 July 2021, AIS will be mandated for category 1 and 2 races and recommended, albeit briefly, for category 3. From 1 July 2022 the AIS will also be required for category 3 races. Complementary to this is a new recommendation that an AIS personal crew overboard beacon be carried by each crew member when on deck.

AIS capability is an essential means of communication and enables yachts in the vicinity of an emergency to be called in to help with search and rescue efforts. Yachts in the vicinity are often able to respond fastest in an emergency, as was demonstrated in the Port Fairy and Finistere incidents.

The Special Regulations can be found at

By Glen Stanaway