Poll set up for yachtsmen's vote

Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) chief executive, Peter Cardy has suggested flares may have had their day and asks: ‘Can you envisage a time when there will no longer be value in yachtsmen carrying flares?’

But alternatives are expensive. An EPIRB costs £300. And when Charlie Mill of Ocean Safety says sailors might spend £50 for an inshore pack of two reds and two orange hand smokes, ‘What hope is there they’ll chuck £300 at something they really don’t want to use?’ asks Peter Nash of Boating Business. ‘Even if they have an EPIRB and it transmits as required, the SAR guys prefer those in peril have something positive to pinpoint their position. Like a hand held flare or a smoke,’ he continues.

Robert Hill, MD of Pains Wessex parent Chemring Marine, told Boating Business: ‘The RNLI has even had to tell the person in distress to activate the screen light on their mobile phone to aid identification.As of 1 February 2009 PLBs and EPiRBs are only monitored on 406MHz. Their signal is sent to a satellite and then has to be validated before activating any SAR assets.’

Assuming these assets then locate the distressed vessel they can potentially home in on the 121.5MHz DF signal, again assuming the rescue vessel has, and can, operate DF. But again, once in the area of a casualty, the SAR services need visual identification. ideally a hand held red flare or an orange smoke. ‘We are trying to find a way through this maze, and when a path is established it is going to be very expensive,’ says Mr Cardy. ‘The most logical solution to me for all of us, is for recreational yachtsmen to stop using them.’

Mr Cardy wants to hear from anyone with an interest in pyrotechnics as to whether they think this is viable. So Boating Business have set up an online poll for yachtsmen to register their vote: