Natalia Via-Dufresne-The importance of electronics onboard

Technology is increasingly providing a helping hand to sailors.

With electronic equipment onboard, sailing is more enjoyable and offers us greater safety.

When hiring a boat we usually find an array of electronic devices that allow us to plan our trip. However, not all boats have the same systems as there are many brands and models currently on the market.
It is vital to know what they are for and how they can help us. Natalia Via Dufresne, twice Olympic silver medallist and a sailor was kind enough to visit BoatBureau and explain to us the importance of electronics onboard.

Natalia Via Dufresne started sailing at the age of 8. She has taken part in 4 Olympic Games and won two silver medals, one in the Europe class in Barcelona in 1992 aged 19, and the other in Athens in 2004 in the 470 class.
She has been sailing for 34 years, with her career embracing the sport of sailing, being a dinghy coach and performing PR work at sailing events.
From the Olympic class she changed to the cruiser class, where electronic equipment aids navigation.

 

1.- What has your move to cruiser class meant for you and the aid provided by the equipment onboard?

For me it was a big change as in dinghy sailing the only equipment allowed is a digital compass. Sailing in this type of craft and being able to have available so much information on the wind and the speed of the boat was quite a luxury.

2.- What does the use of electronics onboard signify?

When sailing for pleasure I always take note of the wind (wanting information on the wind is inevitable), but I think the plotter with cartography of the zone I sail in is of great value, as well as the information provided by the depth sounder, which is really useful for anchoring or entering any ports. I can have the motor, batteries or alarm information connected to the plotter which gives me an incalculable sense of security and tranquillity, just in case the anchor should drag.

3.- Ocean competition boats have high-tech electronics and communication devices, but for cruiser sailing, what electronic apparatus is essential and an absolute necessity onboard?

If I had to choose just one I would say a GPS with a plotter. But nowadays I think that, as an important device apart from the GPS with a plotter, I would add the depth sounder, radar, AIS, etc. … everything that offers safety and information to help us when sailing.

4.- You had the opportunity to start sailing very young, but how would you advise or encourage people who want to try it?

Firstly, I’d say that sailing is ageless: that you can start to learn at any time. You need to have the drive to want to learn and to understand how the wind “works” to be able to advance and move across the water. Although you can sail throughout the year, when starting I advise you to do it during the warm summer months, guaranteeing yourself good temperatures and wind conditions with the breeze that is generated by the thermals (in the case of the Mediterranean) and to sail in a group (in a monotype or small cruiser). Or else it’s also great fun doing it in an individual or two-person class where you can feel the boat’s reactions much more.

5.- What important points would you advise bearing in mind when it comes to hiring a boat?

I would advise you to hire a boat in accordance with the requirements at that point in time, such as the number of people that will be onboard and whether they have experience or not … or if there are children. Depending on the type of charter that you are after, I would look for the type of boat that most fits what you want to do.
Once in the boat, I would then do a quick but detailed check of the electronic appliances and batteries, check if there’s water in the bilge, that the anchor works, that there is safety equipment (life jackets, some sort of harness, flares, radar, etc.) and check all the boat’s documentation is up to date.

6. – Now you are a mother, is it very different sailing with children? What advice can you share from your experience?

A child onboard is just one crew member more, although you have to be more conscious of the “obstacles” that are on deck. I recommend putting a safety net on the stanchions to stop them falling, that they always wear their life jackets, and if sea conditions are heavy, that they are tied on just in case. Children really enjoy the sea and on a cruiser they can play and have fun with any of the things that are usually found onboard. Apart from that, it is a perfect way to get them to sleep well and have a good siesta!

7.- Where is the place in the world that you have most enjoyed sailing?

Although I have only made a few trips for pleasure as I’ve always been competing, I really liked sailing in Sydney Harbour: it was beautiful and discovering all the hidden spots tucked away in the area was a great experience…


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