The drivers of SailGP’s nine-strong F50 fleet now have the option to design bespoke button arrangements on the wheels of their F50s.
The capability was first introduced in Sydney and drivers have since been gradually increasing the level of customization to the 10 buttons on each wheel.
SailGP’s head of systems Alex Reid said the development had been ‘specifically requested by the drivers’.
“While we fix software issues in-between events, we also have a request list of specific requests from athletes,” he explained. “If enough of them want it then we set about getting it implemented”.
He described the 10 button arrangement on the F50 wheel, which is broken down into two groups of five, as ‘a bit like an Xbox controller’.
Drivers now have a whole host of new functions they can add to their F50 wheels, including moving the board up or down, controlling the wing and jib, and the ability to protest a penalty against a rival team.
The wing control functions will allow more advanced control of the wing during maneuvers, while the jib functionality will allow the grinders to keep their hands on the pedestal during bear aways or round ups.
The protest button too will eliminate the need for the flight controller to take a hand away from their controls to protest, which was previously the case.
Some teams are pushing the limits of the customization while others are keeping it simple. Teams also have the option not to use the capability at all, preferring to stick with the default set up.
The introduction of the button mapping customization allows for ‘more flexibility’, Reid says, and allows the teams ‘to sail the boat in a different way’.
“It allows them to move to a sailing style that they prefer, or the customization might just make the boat easier to sail,” he says.
While first introduced in Sydney, many teams are still refining their button mapping layouts and new developments are in the pipeline to allow even more flexibility.
One potential development being considered is the ability to create two button map layouts - one for a six person crew and one for a reduced four person crew in lighter winds.
“Normally when you go down to four people, the driver will be the one flying the boat and this means that the driver would be able to switch to another system depending on the crew configuration on board,” Reid explained. However, it’s unlikely this capability will be introduced in Season 4.
Elsewhere, a strategist control panel and information display are set to be introduced to the F50s in Chicago to coincide with the start of Season 4.