This is an English version of an earlier article.
It’s no secret that I think instruments are an important piece of the puzzle on board.
I often joke that I’m not a very good sailor, so I have to rely on the numbers to sail the boat fast. But it’s incredibly hard to know when a modern boat is sailing at 100%, especially if you are new to the model. Very often, it’s not the mode that feels best which is fastest. And other things, like the current, cannot be felt at all but must be measured.
It is the same with business, where I also think that you should be “data-driven”, ie measure and analyze, and then continue to measure smaller and smaller components to get a real understanding of how to get better.
How committed our customers are, or whether the profitability of a particular product has increased or decreased is not about feel. Similarly, we are not going to debate how strong the current is or which gennaker is best on the next leg. Based on facts, we know the answers and can devote ourselves to strategic choices and those that require real reasoning.
Just as I try to understand how AirBnB or Amazon measures and controls their operations, you can look at how the TP52 or Volvo Ocean Race teams are doing …
Already on the Albin Nova we took this seriously, and on both the J/109 and J / 111 we have had a high level of ambition. It has obviously required good instruments and the use of Expedition. But above all, it’s important to have a navigator who is passionate. In our case, Patrik Måneskiöld is the driving force, both on board and in technology development. When he is not happy with the GPS positions at a start, he builds his own, much better GPS (last one of the u-blox NEO-7P + Novatel GPS-701-GG). And when we debate how much we lose in one tack, he does a proper analysis.
It is, by the way, a good tip to all other teams with a little ambition – find someone who is passionate about this area and who calls himself a navigator.
This year we are planning even bigger races, so we need to take the next step with instruments and navigation.
Our Garmin system has worked well, but we have pushed the limits and replaced sensors a little too often. In 6 years we have gone through three masthead unit, three compass transducers, three speed sensors and a couple of displays.
So when we were facing a slightly larger refresh, we chose to broaden our perspective.
The options that were on the table were:
B & G. This is the pro’s choice, so you know you will be able to do what you want, but it also costs more money. Historically, support has been limited, and you need to know a guru. Much, however, has happened since I was wrestled with one of the first H5000 systems in 2014.
Garmin. Good components with a reasonable price tag. When it was called Nexus, the quality was sometimes so-so, but this was weighed up (and then some) by the world’s best support. The transition to Garmin has meant better quality, but also a more standardized support process. I can also find that we are between the existing product range and a new one. The software is also lagging – it’s scary every time you get into Nexus Race.
NKE. Awesome gear, But very French. I have had their Gyropilot, which has worked like clockwork, but the closest support for me is in Holland. Had I had the boat in France, it would have been an option, but now I cannot justify the extra difficulties that it means to not have support locally: at least not if I’m going to start from scratch.
Raymarine. Good autopilots and plotters, but the instrument side has long had a problem with calibration. Raymarine bought Tacktick, and have great packages for a smaller boat, or if you cruise and want everything from the same supplier.
Mix-n-match. Picking up sensors, displays, iPads, and others and integrating them yourself is an option. And we have almost been there with both Garmin, NKE & Raymarine. There are cool new options on the market like Sailmon, but you have to be prepared to spend quite a bit to make it work well.
What have been the priorities?
a) Data quality. If you can’t get good data and calibrate effectively, nothing else matters. Simple.
b) Support. This is partly about good product support when something breaks, but also to be able to discuss questions with pros like Johan Barne, Martin Gadman on Happy Yachting or other navigators. It’s easier if someone else took the hit on a TP52, and we can use the same methodology :-)
c) Integration with Expedition is important, as this is central to routing and performance analysis. If you can also get all the parts to talk to each other well, that’s a benefit.
d) Robustness. When we do a really tough race, the masthead unit can’t shut off when it rains and blows 16 m/s, and the compass cannot lose calibration at regular intervals.
So what did we arrive at?
The layout is almost identical to what we have today (here’s the one we did in 2012).
On the mast, we have everything that has to do with performance. Two 20/20HV for BSB + TWA / AWA and then two H5000 Graphic Display where we can vary data a little more. Today we are running some displays alternating data, but it’s not optimal. Garmin’s newer GNX driver NMEA2000 can display three values (one large and two small), but now it felt best to drive everything from the same supplier
In the cockpit, we have two more H5000 Graphic Display. We see the one to leeward very well and it’s easy to change data. Normally, these show more tactical data such as current, next leg, and time to laylines. Especially shorthanded, it feels good to have this data easily accessible without looking at Expedition. Previously we had three displays, but now we can show more data on each, plus the plotter fills a larger function…
At archipelago races, especially shorthanded, it’s nice to have a real plotter. At the steering wheel, we will have a Zeus³ 7 plotter and MOB button. On paper this unit looks very good, and will work well in rain and splashes, which Raymarine e7 did not. It can also act as an instrument display and autopilot control.
It has some cool sailing features with laylines and more. Stay tuned for a proper evaluation.
We’ll will keep our existing Navionics cards, as integration with their app was superb. Perhaps there are even more opportunities now?
At the chart table we are installing a Vulcan 7, as this is both cheaper and nicer than a Graphic Display. This will mainly be there to display data, but also to control the autopilot and adjust settings.
The CPU is a H5000 Hercules , which is the mid-level of functionality. What we especially want is 3D Motion that compensates wind and speed depending on how the boat is moving, and the ability to send data to and from Expedition. There seems to be a number of smart features to get the most out of this.
One thing I really look forward to is being able to calibrate via a proper web interface. We will return to this process in a separate article.
As far as sensors are concerned, we have tried to find a good balance between “the latest” and a little more conservative with stuff that you know work well. Most of the sensors seem to be the same as on the VO65…
2 x 20/20HV Display
4 x H5000 Graphic Display
H5000 Base Pack Hercules
H5000 Pilot Computer
H5000 Barometric Pressure Sensor
H5000 3D Motion Sensor
H5000 Pilot Controller
H3000 Speed Sensor Plastic Flush
Masthead Unit 810mm
Here is the plan I received from Martin on Happy Yachting. Here you can see how everything is on the NMEA2000 backbone, get power supply in the right place (total = 1.83A). Martin has also helped me with the installation.
What happens now?
It’s a long journey from making the decision to get good data on the water. Because it’s the first time for us, I thought I’d be a bit more careful this time. The plan right now is to get back with:
– Installation; where we review the location, assembly and the challenges we encountered there. Installation is done with Martin on Happy Yachting, who will do installations on a number of boats this spring, so there should be some best practices.
– Calibration; partly about the general approach, but also the specificity of the H5000. Here I hope to bring with me a guru so that both we and you can learn some more.
– Starting features are available in both Expedition, H5000 and Zeus. Location to compare and test before the Big Boat.
– The autopilot is worth its own article. Here I have been spoiled with NKE and am a little nervous with a new friend on board. Jean-Claude (as the NKE Gyropilot was called) will sail on the east coast to summer :-)
– Weather/routing. Here too, Zeus has features that will be fun to compare with Expedition (and maybe some variants on iPad).
There are certainly more topics that are interesting.
Add a comment if there is something special that I should focus on?
Disclaimer: Blur has a formal partnership with Navico and Happy Yachting, and this article is part of this collaboration. Legally speaking, this is advertising, but I’m careful to be honest and straight forward, regardless of relationship with other parties.