Mining the Numbers
Mining the Numbers
Sailing from the seat of your pants will only get you so far. If you’re looking to go further, check out this new performance-analysis system adapted from the world of Formula 1 racing. "Electronics" from our September 2010 issue.
The Garda system, which uses a smaller data logger (2" x 3") with integrated accelerometer and GPS, accepts up to six different sensor feeds. It’s been in development with the British Olympic Sailing Team since 2004 and has found its way onto foiling Moths, sportboats, and of late, says Cosworth’s Alex Reid, it’s being use by more and more keen weekend racers. A new partnership with Tacktick electronics (it can interface with the Tacktick system) has accelerated its use amongst serious amateur teams.
International Moth champion and pro sailor Adam May has been using the system as well and says it has opened up a new realm of things to study.
“You have to want to do it,” he says, “but once you do, it leads you off into all sorts of places. That said, you have to go into it knowing what you want out of it.”
Through his experience with the system, May eventually learned that he was losing less distance when jibing than he thought, and this discovery has since influenced his tactics. He’s much more inclined to jibe for tactical reasons.
The Garda system starts at $2,823, which includes the hardware and Toolbox. From there, the user can add sensors as they see fit: tiny load cell pins, laser sensors, etc. “It’s a very flexible system,” says Reid. “You can do virtually anything.”
While most sailors don’t have the time nor technical prowess to develop elaborate analysis formulas to the extent that Hopkins and others do, Reid says they are continually refining the Toolbox software to make it more plug-and-play and userfriendly.
“At Robert’s level, they can develop all sorts of tools,” says Reid. “But for the weekend guys, we have templates to load into, and they can go from there.” At the end of the day, he adds, the system is only as good as the answers one gets by asking it the right questions, and how quickly the answers are delivered to the sailors.
“We’ve been using it to think of ways to go faster,” says Hopkins, who adds that Bella’s owner, Fauth, has benefited from the in-depth analysis of his helming technique.
“The boat is a solid six lengths faster around the same-length course than it was a year ago. And, as a sailor, it’s inspired me to question everything I feel is intuitive. I can ask the most complicated chain of questions to capture that seat of the pants thing. We never had that kind of agility with any other software.”