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High Technology on the High Seas

Algiz rugged tablets provide a strategic advantage for the Audi Sailing Team. 

Ruggedized Algiz portable computers from Handheld provide a strategic advantage for the Audi Sailing Team. 

Challenge

Create a tactical information system for a racing boat that is usable on deck in all conditions, including direct sunlight, darkness and heavy weather with breaking waves. 

Solution

Handheld’s Algiz XRW under the deck as the host computer, wired to the onboard instrument system and running the tactical software application; Algiz 7 with a wireless connection gathering and using tactical information on deck. 

Result

Wind data, performance analysis and navigational tools are available on deck in any conditions and any time of day.

 

Imagine you have a job as a crew member for a sailboat racing team. You’re out on the seas for hours, in the sun, the wind, the water and the salty spray. The sails snap, the boom swings, you scramble across the slippery deck... what a wonderful work environment. 

Now imagine that job includes using a handheld computer. Sunlight, wind, salt water... what a harsh work environment. You’d need an awfully rugged tool to do your work in that world. And that’s what the Audi Sailing Team found in a pair of Algiz tablet computers – tools that add powerful computing performance to the team without a worry about the weather. 

One team, individual tasks

The Audi Sailing Team’s 2011 season included the ORC International World Championship in Cres, Croatia, the national championships of Finland/Estonia, Slovenia and Croatia, and several ranking regattas in Finland. The team campaigned two boats: a 42-foot Grand Soleil and a 37-foot Salona. 

In offshore racing, everyone on the sailing team of 8 to 10 people needs to be a good overall sailor, but the individual positions involve specialized tasks. Part of the crew focuses on boat handling and the setting and changing of sails. The helmsman and the sail trimmers constantly look for the best speed and balance. The remaining task is to determine the optimum positioning of the boat in relation to the wind, the course and competing boats. This is the domain of the navigator/tactician. 

The tactician’s job is to gather information and plan ahead for the boat’s next moves on the race course, using that information for a maximum advantage. Sources of information include visual clues such as clouds and the wind on the water, but onboard instrumentation and the Internet are increasingly part of the equation. Wind instruments, the boat log, and an electronic compass provide data on the performance of the boat, as well as wind trends. Weather forecasts can be downloaded in numeric format and used for route optimization. Navigation remains a critical task, but it is made easier with GPS functionality and electronic charts. 

Specialized technology requirements

When the Audi Sailing Team decided to integrate and deploy a tactical information system for the 2011 season, they knew they would be asking a lot of the equipment. And so they considered several usability and system requirements when selecting the software and the computers. Foremost among the considerations was the tactician’s job functions. 

The tactician needs to be on deck, where the action is, able to see conditions topside while communicating instantaneously with the helmsman. When the boat is beating upwind, every sailor on the team is on the weather rail to improve speed and pointing, and the tactician is no exception. In daytime racing there is often direct sunlight while reading a screen, but some races continue through the night. Rain is encountered from time to time, and in heavy weather there is constant spray of salt water as well as the occasional wave breaking over deck. 

Tough enough to take it all

That’s a tough set of conditions and requirements to meet. After researching the options available, Audi selected a solution comprising Algiz XRW and Algiz 7 tablet computers from Handheld, combined with the Expedition software suite. 

The ultra-rugged Algiz XRW notebook running the Expedition application is located at the navigation station below deck, and wired to the onboard instrument system (B&G Hercules on the Grand Soleil 42 R; Tacktick on the Salona 37). The Algiz 7 is carried on deck by the tactician, using a WLAN to act as a notepad user interface to the tactical information system. 

The Algiz 7 was selected as the on-deck tool based on its bright, high-resolution, daylight-viewable display, its long battery life and two-battery hot-swap system, its light weight and its IP65 water proof rating. 

As a complete rugged tablet computer, the Algiz 7 could have been used as the boat’s only computer unit, running the Expedition software and connecting via a WLAN to the onboard instrument system. But the team chose a two-computer configuration instead, for the benefits of adding redundancy and a backup unit. 

Thus, the team selected the Algiz XRW as the host computer, thanks to its versatile USB and COM ports, daylight-viewable display, low power consumption and IP65 rating. This tablet is protected under deck; however, in practice glaring sunlight or a breaking wave can come down the companionway, so having a ruggedized portable computer provides critical operational reliability. 

Campaign-tested

The Audi Sailing Team used the Algiz XRW and Algiz 7 in their 2011 races on the Mediterranean and Baltic seas, for navigation, start-line analysis and timing, performance analysis, wind analysis, sail selection, data logging and post-race analysis. Both computers performed admirably. 

“Race boats offer a hostile environment for computers and tablets – sun, salt water, cramped quarters and general abuse,” says Jukka Nieminen, the team tactician. “At no time did this stop our Handheld Algiz XRW and Algiz 7 computers from providing us with the valuable information we needed.”