The F50 fleet is set to receive a new tech innovation as Season 4 gets underway in Chicago, with the installation of a strategist control panel.

Developed directly with the strategists over the course of a year, the control panel was created to meet the athletes’ collective desire to contribute more actively to the sailing of the boat.

Season 4 // New Zealand SailGP Team // Strategist view in cockpit

Sitting behind the driver, the strategist position is used differently by different teams - with many using the role to call out changing wind conditions, assist the driver with the starting strategy, steer out of maneuvers and keep a close eye on the rest of the fleet.

At the moment though, the strategists’ involvement with physically sailing the boat is limited - but this is set to change with the introduction of the control panel.

Speaking about the project, SailGP’s head of systems Alex Reid said the panel will ‘give the strategists the exact same functions that the driver has on the wheel’.

Season 4 // Spain SailGP Team // Cockpit of Spanish F50

“The panel will allow them to actively sail the boat - they can control the jib or the wing and protest penalties. It will give them all the functions and it will be interesting to see what they decide to do.”

Each strategist will have the ability to personally configure the controls on their panels - which could include a protest button, jib sheet control and man overboard trigger.

Season 4 // Switzerland SailGP Team // Mettraux with Sebastien Schneiter

The addition of the panel will ‘give the team a lot more capability to sail the boat’ and, most importantly, ‘make the strategist much more integral to the sailing’, according to Reid.

Emirates GBR strategist Hannah Mills agreed, adding she expects teams to use the new technology according to the ‘strengths’ of their individual female athlete.

Season 4 // Australia SailGP Team // Close up of Australia F50 cockpit

“Some might be incorporated a lot more into helping to trim the jib with the control panel to free up the second grinder,” she said.