Gear Reviews

2012-05-14

MINOX BN 7x50 DCM - A decent pair of binoculars are vital when sailing

Another crew member.

It’s coming up to 7pm and we are on the start line of the Royal Southampton Yacht Club’s Corona Extra Double-Handed overnight race to Weymouth. The atmosphere is tense. With just two sailors on board each yacht there is a lot to do and to take in. On the start line of a race the first thing to do is determine is the angle of the start line compared to the angle of the wind and decide on starting tactics—which end of the line should we start at, which tack should we be on? The next is to pinpoint a fixed position by taking bearings to the shore to allow a few practice runs to the line. All of this gives confidence so that start countdown begins we can approach the line at speed in the right place and on time.

We already have one advantage however: a pair of robust Minox BN 7x50 DCM nautical binoculars that have an inbuilt bearing compass and timer which allow us to establish all of our starting bearings without leaving the cockpit or using separate tools. The large lenses also pull in light in the low light dusk conditions enabling us to see detail invisible to the naked eye. Throughout the race this was invaluable: we could see which sails our competitors were using and monitor wind shifts for the boats in front of us. When the light fades, the necessary boat on boat comparisons become harder to keep track of. What are other competitors doing? Which side of the course is providing the best conditions? All these questions could be answered through judicious use of the binoculars.

We could also check our relative position by monitoring the bearing between ourselves and our competitors, as well as ascertaining if we were on a collision course with shipping. The binoculars’ low-light performance was invaluable when a badly lit fishing boat came straight though the fleet just after midnight.

Later that night with the wind falling to virtually nothing the bearing facility proved useful once again. Whether racing or cruising in strong tidal waters you can find yourself sailing forwards through the water but going backwards over the ground. The bearing facility enabled us to immediately confirm when the tide started winning the battle against the wind meaning we were pushed backwards. Out came the anchor.

Other inbuilt features such as temperature and pressure were unexpectedly useful enabling us to gauge whether wind shifts were permanent or temporary. The fact that all these features are built into the binoculars means the information is at hand in one place, removing the need to leave the cockpit to dig out a separate tool or instrument—a great advantage when there are only two hands on board.

A decent pair of binoculars in the cockpit also made our entry into an
unfamiliar port far easier. We could pick out navigational buoys and marks early—and long before they could be seen by the naked eye—which
gave us great confidence in our navigation. As we approached Weymouth after 12 hours of sailing, we were puzzled that we could see none of our competitors ahead of us. It was only later when we had moored up that we found out why—we had beaten them all to win the race. That has to be thanks in part to the Minox BN 7x50s—from now on, known as the third crew member.

H. Douglas