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The most brilliant onboard data is worthless if you can’t read it

Being able to create a dedicated data stream that can be displayed in a wide variety of ways might not sound like the kind of detail you might need from your instruments, but the technical team at B&G have been seeing steady growth in this side of their business for some time. So much so, that they have produced the next evolution in a product that, according to product director Matt Eeles, has been acknowledged as the market leader and industry benchmark.

‘The Hercules WTP is the topend solution in a line up of three sailing processors, that include the Triton Edge and Hercules systems,’ explains Eeles. ‘It’s aimed at the top-end of the market and ranges from grand prix racers such as the TP52s across to superyachts. The common denominator is the need to display very specific data.

‘For example, a TP52 may want to monitor mast rake and/or twist. To do this they would declare a new variable in the WTP and attach the relevant sensors to read the data into the system. From there the data can be displayed in a number of ways and of course recorded for analysis.

Main picture and below: The Hercules WTP is the top-end solution in a line up of three sailing processors from B&G. It’s aimed at both grand prix yacht racing teams and superyachts

‘Aboard a superyacht it may be the need to display information within hydraulic systems such as pressures, angles or positions. This information might need to appear separately from the main instruments and in most cases this would mean taking data from the PLC system.

‘Offshore race boats like Imocas or multihulls are looking for data across a wide range of areas. Loads, mast rotation angles and foil positions are just a few of the huge number of variables that teams now want to monitor. Often, it’s not just about displaying the single data stream either, but feeding data into a more complex calculation. Mast rotation is a simple example where linking this into the radar allows the system to maintain a constant display relative to the boat’s heading.

‘The ability to display the data in different ways is important too. Sometimes a graphical display rather than a numeric one gives a much better idea of what is going on. Displaying safe operating zones with graphics and colours is a much more effective way of knowing where you are on the scale than a set of fast moving numbers. The ability to create custom displays is another big part of Hercules WTP.’

Some might argue that there is nothing new in the ability to have data streams for more complex functions, but as B&G’s product expert Mike Sugden explains, creating a custom solution has not always been easy or practical.

‘One of the pieces of feedback we were getting from navigators and skippers was that they didn’t want to feel like they had to undertake a science project to get the data they’re after. Instead, they want to be able to configure it themselves and then just turn it on,’ he says. ‘So, the ability for crews to be able to create the information streams that they need without having to employ specialist help was a central part of the development of Hercules WTP.

‘The need for a better user interface was also very important so that data can be monitored on a range of displays beyond the boat’s instruments such as tablets and phones. And as boats have become more complex there has also been a growing need, for, say the delivery crew to be able to use the instruments in different ways when the race navigators are not on board.

‘The new capacity of the system is also very important,’ he continues. ‘Having the latest quad-core commercial grade processors at the heart of Hercules WTP not only leads to better processing but also means that we’re not as restricted as we were, say, 10 years ago, which has really opened up the possibilities.’

While Hercules WTP is clearly aimed at the grand prix and high-tech arenas, the technology is already having an effect elsewhere in the sport.

‘Data visualisation is an important issue for a much wider range of sailors,’ explains software engineer Alex Adams. ‘The growth of cruising charter cats means that there are plenty of people who are less familiar with multihulls and for example, don’t necessarily know how much mainsheet they should pull on. Having a graphical display of the safe settings as well as showing when they are approaching the red zone is a huge help. Behind the scenes this relies on specific data streams and good intuitive displays.

‘But, as well as the high-tech trickle down, I’d argue that there’s also an example of trickle up. Making data easy to understand is important for all, including those at the leading edge of the sport.’

Evidence that at some point in the future you might need, or benefit from more information than you first thought.

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