AF Race 2013, learning AIS Swedish style


The AF Offshore Race 2013 — in which all boats are required to carry AIS — began in Stockholm Harbor on Sunday and the screen above shows how it looked on the Swedish-made ipad app SeaPilot. Note how the group at the right, already racing, is hard on the (light) wind while the next class stalks the starting line. SeaPilot was even set up to show the race marks as well as the country’s many AIS weather-reporting bouys. But actually my iPad went largely ignored at this point because lucky me was perched high on a historic citadel with an incredible eyeball view of the whole scene…


Kastellets citadel was where the race sponsors and friends could observe the starts, and my wife and I got to join them thanks to Anders Bergström, who is a principal behind both the SeaPilot app project and True Heading, a company that manufactures AIS transponders and also distributes other marine electronic in Sweden.


In fact, True Heading provided AIS rentals and service to the 260 boat fleet that had gathered in the race village, and right after the starts Bergström had to quickly program an SRT-built AIS Identifier to replace a broken transponder on one racer.

True Heading Paragon 25 cPanbo.JPG

Then we got underway in his fast Paragon 25, zipped past many of the racers as they worked their way out through the complex Stockholm archipeligo, and handed off the Identifier to the boat in need.

AF race 2013 AIS tracker cPanbo.jpg

Bergström knows a LOT about AIS and was instrumental in building out the Swedish Maritime Administration’s extensive network of shore receivers. That’s what the Royal Swedish Yacht Club is using to track the AF racers as they round big Gotlund island. You can see the live tracking here, and it’s impressive considering that most vessels are just carrying 2 watt Class B transponders.

Esimit Europa 2 in AF 2013.JPG

The maxi Esimit Europa 2 has already finished as I write on Tuesday afternoon, and I was glad we got to see her when she first got out onto a calm Baltic on Sunday evening. A neat thing about this race — which seem comparable to our Newport-to-Bermuda event in terms of traditions and enthusiasm — is that it never got truly dark at night.

Anders Bergstrom  w SeaPilot n SeaCross cPanbo.JPG

We returned to Stockholm via a lovely though ledge-strewn back route partially because Anders wanted to show me some SeaPilot features that I’ll discuss in a coming entry. I also got to see his Swedish-built SeaCross PC navigation system in action…

SeaCross radar underlay cPanbo.JPG

One feature that I’d never seen before is the way it “underlays” charted land masses and navigation aides on its (Koden) radar window, which seems quite smart.
   Tomorrow night we’ll be out on Sandhamn Island for the race’s closing ceremonies and I hope to gawk at more of the classic class yachts like the one below. And, no, I did not use an unusual lens to take that picture; it’s just that Swedes historically had a penchant for long and lean sailing hulls. I’ve learned a lot about what AIS here,  but also look forward to sharing some of Sweden’s boating history and passion.  

AF Race 2013 Classic cPanbo.JPG

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

11 Responses

  1. Sandy Daugherty says:

    Great post, Ben. You captured the excitement, explained the event, and tied it to some very interesting Tecky-food too!

  2. Kim says:

    How nice that you are here in the beautiful Stockholm archipelago, Ben!
    In The Sandhamns Värdshus (Sandhamn Inn/Tavern), a short walking distance from the KSSS, there is usually a great fish soup on the menu, well worth the walk.
    Enjoy your stay!

  3. Rolf says:

    check out “THE” Swedish Sailing Blog for more info:

  4. Allan Seymour says:

    Ben you stay right there for awhile, the weather here in Camden is awful. Have used all the instruments , radar overlay, AIS, VHF,GMI10 weather, I Pad and more here on the Sally W. Big help out on Penobscot Bay. Very interesting screen shot of AIS display there. Weather info on AIS? Could we do that here?

  5. Kim says:

    Speaking about the first AIS screen shot: right under the keels of the first group of boats at the right (the ones already racing) is where they found the old war ship Vasa. Even though marine electronics have saved numerous ships and boats since then I believe that only more stones in the ballast could have saved her, or maybe only a better ship builder…

  6. Adrian Richards says:

    We cruise in Sweden and find that the free app ” marine traffic” gives us all the ais info we need or can use on our iPad. Even tho Sea Pilot has a lot of features, for us the Garmin app for all of Europe supplemented with the cheap Garmin app “premium weather” for GRIB date is quite sufficient.
    And, by the way, Panbo is essential reading and well written. Keep up the good work!

  7. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, Kim. We spent Monday morning at the Vasa Museum and it’s a new favorite. What a vessel, what a story!

  8. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Quite a coincidence: Panbo friend and occasional correspondent Kees Verruijt tied up in Stockholm today, right in the shadow of the Vasa Museum and a short beautiful walk from the Villa Kallhagen where we stayed. Unfortunately, I’m now back in Maine!

  9. Kees says:

    The folks that race through the archipelago with such big boats must be very relaxed or just have a big heart. Or a big wallet. Rocks everywhere, couldn’t have gotten in to the heart of Stockholm without detailed electronic charts on plotter and PC.
    But blimey, what a beautiful sailing area and city. The Skårgarden (archipelago) is simply stunning. Lots and lots of sailing boats, all enjoying themselves but once outside Stockholm it never feels busy. And here in the Wasahamnen you lie right below multiple museums and an attraction park for the kids just a short walk away, with beautiful views of the city which is also very close at hand.
    Superb harbourmasters and friendly liveaboards taking your lines and giving out information. Not at all what you would expect in a city of 2 million inhabitants.
    Greatly recommended!
    PS the fact that it has been extremely nice weather (22-27 degrees, sunny all day) may bias my judgment a bit!

  10. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I thoroughly agree, Kees! I got to sail (and motor) quite a bit in the archipelago and it has the magic of Maine only with many more islands and a certain serenity that comes with almost no tide and low salinity. The cottages and docks look like they are on a Maine lake except you can go to the city or to Europe from there.
    But rocks and charts are an issue. At least one of the deep racers did ‘touch’ a ledge and the Arcona yacht yard I visited had two boats in for keel and rudder tip repairs (and they build their boats with a wicked strong steel backbone).
    The SeaPilot app I used a lot supports both meticulously rendered Swedish Maritime S57 charts and privately made Hydrographica charts of the non commercial areas that the government doesn’t cover well. I’ll write more about them soon.
    PS Swedes seemed to love this old Maine joke:
    “What’s summer like up here?”
    “If it comes on a Sunday, we take a picnic.”
    But they’re hoping that this summer may be particularly sweet. Good timing, Kees!

  11. Kim says:

    It is true Kees (and Ben), the Stocholm archipelago with all its beauty still needs you to be observant and most boaters are, but not always (not even Pilots: ).
    In the 90’s and early 20’s boaters with faster and bigger boats tended to ran up on both islands and rocks more often than earlier. This (simply put) led to a new law a few years ago. This law forbids people that are steering, navigating or have other crucial duties onboard to have more than 0,2 per mille alcohol in their blood when they are on boats longer than 10 meters or able to drive faster than 15 knots. This law is controversial and debated, not only because it mirrors the one for people driving cars, but also because some researchers say that accidents occur due to other reasons than alcohol.
    Never the less, in the Stockholm archipelago there are a lot of rocks and islands and narrow and shallow straits where the shortest way may not always be the best ( ).
    The same could be said about the two archipelagos north east of Stockholm’s, Åland archipelago ( ) and Turku archipelago ( ). They too need careful navigation. The difference between them and the Stockholm archipelago is that they “serve” smaller towns than Stockholm, meaning that you have even more space on your own there. The Turku archipelago is also the biggest of them all. So, if you have the time and possibility, they are both well worth the trip over the Sea of Åland. But don’t forget to check the weather reports as waves can grow considerably big there.

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