I might as well admit it: I’m an instrument sailor 😃
On the J/111 we did our homework and ended up with a B&G H5000 system (background).
And when we got an older Dominant Race Special on loan for the summer, we were a bit lost without numbers. So when Sailmon wanted us to test the new Salmon MAX, we jumped on the opportunity.
It’s been 10 years since I got my first Velocitek ProStart (actually started to import them to Happy Yachting in 2010). But even if the core functionality is similar, a lot has happened in tech since then.
Stay with me to the end, when I get into future functionality.
What I like
Display & form factor. The unit itself feels nice, with rubberized sides and a plastic backside that fits nicely into the two different mounts I got with the unit. The 4,4″ display is very nice both in direct sunlight and in the shade. The numbers are big enough. I had some issues with polarizing sunglasses, but nothing I couldn’t manage.
Interface (when sailing). Very intuitive, and my crew immediately got the hang of it without any instructions. It’s easy to flip through the pages and the starting line functions are intuitive. If it’s the first time pinging a line and trying to use the early/late indicator, it can be confusing, but when you understand the math behind it it’s not that hard (it works ok when you’re approaching the line in a consistent way).
The data you can get on the different pages.
Battery. Built-in 3600mAh lithium-polymer battery. Charging is wireless and works great at home (not as easy on a 25′ sport boat offshore). Specs say>24 hours. We got 16 hours out of ours (a demo unit with a different battery).
What I don’t like
Interface (set up). Being 2020, everything is connected. The MAX uses both Bluetooth and WiFi (any network or using your phone as a hot-spot). I had a hard time figuring out what interface is used for what, and also there are different settings to be made in the unit and in the app.
I can understand the design choice that the unit should be able to be used standalone, but having to go through an archaic menu system to do basic stuff feels strange when you just connected with a smartphone? I configure all my other gadgets on board with an app for a reason; the Victon BMS/charger/solar regulator, the GoPro, the DJI Mavic Air, and my Withings smartwatch!
It’s also obvious that the app is an early version as I encountered a few bugs (and it doesn’t work on iPad which is strange), but nothing that stopped me from doing what I wanted.
The big thing for me is really sharing. I understand that Sailmon is trying to build a community here, where you need the app to view “friends”… But I just want to share my track on Facebook after a race or take a quick screenshot. Now I can export a CSV file and maybe display it in some other way… I gave up and haven’t shared anything. Maybe anyone got some good advice here?
I really liked the tracks I got from the Sentinel “connected boat device”, Here I just zoomed in and selected the part I wanted to share.
Documentation seems to be work in progress. A lot of the info is shared through webinars & videos (and in a thread on Sailing Anarchy). Should just be in a really good “users guide” matching the great looking packaging/website.
If this was the first effort from a new company (like Racegeek) I wouldn’t care, but Salmon is now an established brand and expectations are suddenly higher 😃
After the start gun, it would be easy to keep “distance to line” for 5 or 10 seconds. That way I would see if I were early (or late). Now it instantly switches to the page I pre-selected.
Easier way of sharing tracks.
But, what is it?
OK. So MAX could be a modern version of a ProStart. Or very much more. There’s already a Bluetooth, solar-powered, ultrasonic wind sensor available (Calypso) for €499, and listening in on the webinars, there seem to be all kinds of stuff on the horizon. As the B&G WS320.
There’s also a checkbox to get “NMEA0183 OUTPUT” from the unit. Not really sure how to take advantage of that yet…
Sailmon MAX is obviously something more than a modern ProStart. But I’m not really sure what I’m buying into here – or where future updates will take me?
I know that it’s hard to launch a new product, and it’s often a good idea to get something on the market to get user feedback. But it’s also very easy to miss your core segment by trying to do too much for too many. And not being super clear on what problem you’re solving.
But so far: well done and good luck to the team at Sailmon.