The fleet’s strategists have been handed extra control of the F50, with the development of a control panel and information display screen.
Sitting behind the driver, the strategist position is deployed differently by different teams - with many using the role to call out changing wind conditions, steer out of maneuvers and keep a close eye on the rest of the fleet. But their involvement with physically sailing the boat remains limited. This is set to change with the introduction of the new control panel and in-development display screen - both of which have been developed directly with the strategists over the course of a year.
The control panel will ‘give the strategists the exact same functions that the driver has on the wheel’, according to SailGP’s head of systems Alex Reid, while the information display will show various graphical and numerical data, as well as video feeds, such as the overhead helicopter view.
Both developments will, Reid said, ‘make the strategist much more integral to the sailing’.
While the panel was unveiled in Chicago, the display screen is to be installed later in Season 4. Viewed initially via a tablet or phone, the fixed display will provide strategists with customized data, such as boat speed, ride height, course axis and time to start. The ultimate aim is for the strategists to view the display through augmented reality glasses.
The original intention was for strategists to read the data from the wing display - but the majority reported difficulty seeing over the height of the driver.
Emirates GBR strategist Hannah Mills agreed that ‘it’s not easy’ for the strategist to see the screen due to being positioned ‘the furthest away from it’. The information display will therefore ‘make analyzing the data and course mapping a lot easier,” she said.
It will also allow the strategists to ‘choose the data they want to see’, Reid said, such as ‘the wind conditions at various points on the course’.
He added that the data screen will be especially useful in light winds. “The strategist will be able to see the data right there and focus more on the strategy than trying to do two things at once.”
Mills said the control panel will ‘allow the female athletes to have an active role in controlling certain features on the F50 while racing’, while the information screen will enable them to execute the strategist role ‘more effectively’.
Denmark strategist Katja Salskov-Iversen agreed that the availability of ‘more strategic information’ will ‘contribute to increasing the level of the racing.’
“We have pushed for a solution to include the strategist more in the sailing and giving us control buttons and more data is a perfect solution,” she said. “I hope that we can integrate the new information and functions available to our team, increase our overall performance, make the boats faster and make smarter decisions.”
Programmed and installed ahead of racing in Chicago, the addition of the panel, Reid said, ‘will give the team a lot more capability to sail the boat’ and, most importantly, ‘makes the strategist much more integral to the sailing’.