How the America’s Cup is (already) changing cruising boats

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On the momentum of the America’s Cup and Vendée Globe a technological revolution is already underway that could also affect the world of cruising (as well as that of racing, which we will tell you about in the next installment).

Lhe America’s Cup with the AC 75 and the Vendée Globe with the Imoca 60 are now the technological frontier of sailing. Intelligent sensors, hydraulic systems, navigation software, and autopilots more accurate than sailors, the America’s Cup and Vendée are experimenting with solutions that will find their way onto everyone’s boats in the future, but in part already. There is a move toward a general process of automating boats for the cruising world to meet the needs of the “ignorant” sailor as well.

If we want it man’s intervention in the adjustments and management of the boat will always be there, but if we just want to relax our boat very soon may be able to do everything by itself, just as is already the case with some cars.

Above, inside the “belly” of the Imoca 60 Hugo Boss with Alex Thomson. Between cameras that monitor the boat at every angle,
With night vision, navigation monitor
And screens where performances scroll
Of the boat, the round-the-world boats are
A state-of-the-art technology laboratory.

The cruise market will be able to open the door to a potentially immense number of customers new to sailing, eager to experience a boating vacation in autonomy, relaxation, and total safety while having little or zero experience. The boat will sail (almost) on its own, effortlessly. Remote services will provide assistance, and the crew can enjoy the sea and wind, with no other worries. We tell you about the technologies that will transform the boat into a smart platform for the beach vacation of the near future. And in parallel we go to see what further developments in the world of racing will be in the near term.


SERVO MECHANISMS AND SAIL-BY-WIRE,

FOR NO MORE EFFORT

Superyachts have already replaced the arms of many sailors with a joystick for decades. In 2006, when Perini Navi’s Maltese Falcon trialbero was launched, it amazed and seemed like science fiction that it was possible to control all sailing maneuvers from the dashboard buttons. The electric servomechanisms and plumbing, they are no longer just a whim to make less effort or the strategy to reduce crew, but will be the fastest way to make sailing affordable for everyone.

Above the Swan 65, note the amount of servo-assisted controls in the wheelhouse,
from the movement of the lifting keel to the tensioning of the jib halyard, and even to the mainsail sheet whose winch is completely hidden below deck.

Above 50 feet, both Nautor’s Swan that Ice Yachts to cite two examples, have focused heavily on Electric winches and hydraulic systems with servo controls. All the boats will control through computerized signals each mechanical element. In aeronautics it is called fly-by-wire technology, it has existed for decades, in boating, we will have to call it sail-by-wire, and the possibilities of this technological leap, are enormous.

WILL DISAPPEAR ROPES, BLOCKS AND RUDDER

Controlling an actuator with a wire or radio signal is cheaper and easier than running a line through blocks or using hand controls with mechanical couplers. Sail-by-wire thus offers the opportunity to reduce the bulk on deck: The winches, which are exclusively electric, will find housing in areas not necessarily accessible to the crew. By eliminating maneuvers from the cockpit, spaces can be redesigned to fit the cruiser, taking even more care The comfort elements of the crew.

Harken’s Assist Sail Trim, a digital aid
To sail adjustments for the less experienced sailor.

The cruising boats on display at today’s boat shows already stand present with some simplified sail maneuvers, with reefing halyards hidden under the deckhouse and even concealed maneuvers. This is understandable and inevitable: the cruiser wants to enjoy the sea and sunbathe, not stumble between sheets and blocks.

A detail of Cariboni’s handling system of a canting keel with hydraulic pistons. Hydraulics is one of the fields that has made tremendous progress in recent years and can provide smart and effective solutions to simplify on-board maneuvering.

Even the most distinctive element of the boat, the rudder wheel, will be replaced by a touchscreen, a push-button or for purely traditional tastes, a mock wheel-hybrid, connected only to an electronic sensor that will control the blade through the computer and a hydraulic or electric actuator.

SENSORS FOR EVERYTHING: IoT THE FIRST STEP TOWARD THE AUTOMATED BOAT

IoT, Internet of Things, the network of things, is that new technology that networks every object, making it smart. In today’s transition phase, boats are already filling up with systems and sensors dedicated to different functions. Let’s get ready for the idea that in the near future sensors will really be everywhere on board. Even hitherto essentially passive and static elements such as the hull, mast, sails, valves of hydraulic and electrical systems will have their own digital identity and provide information to a central boat control and management system.

Above is an example of an augmented “reality” available on the latest Raymarine navigation software and plotters.

In addition to providing useful data for navigational control, such as information on the load of a sheet, the position of the mainsail carriage, and the measurement of airflow on the sails, the sensors will also communicate with the mainland, for example, sending information regarding the state of wear, or the performance of the component itself.

AUGMENTED REALITY AND INFORMATION OF ASSISTANCE.

Augmented reality is the newest feature of the latest plotters: integrated information that is superimposed on real, visual information to extend the skipper’s perceptual and analytical capabilities.

Above is an example of viewing with Fowardscan technology developed by the Navico group in B&G and Simrad plotters.

Data from cameras, thermal night vision cameras, echosounders, radar, AIS, and other information from the network, gps, and sensors are integrated into a single view. The software, which now tends to show all available information, will soon also have to select the really useful information to provide to the skipper so as not to confuse him.

Showing the information, or sounding a beep-beep alarm will no longer be enough. The software will have to be able to cope with a Unexpected absence of the skipper, assist him in the time of difficulty to make critical decisions and tomorrow, pilot the boat independently.

The Volvo Penta Joystick
For the Docking System,
the system for
assisted mooring.

ROUTING SOFTWARE AND AUTOPILOT

The most advanced navigation software already combines electronic mapping, GPS position, weather forecasts, and anemometer data, And calculate the optimal route. They can therefore sail a sail-by-wire boat essentially by themselves on the calculated course, and already, in part, they do.

The boundary between pilot and autopilot is a hot topic in aviation, and the most difficult part is just the interaction between human and computer. If the software has all the information to navigate itself, the weak point for safety might just be the inexperienced skipper.

Then, for safety, it will be better to trust software that can act promptly and steer the boat in total autonomy than a sophisticated system that issues alarms and asks for commands from a somewhat clumsy skipper.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE THAT LEARNS BY ITSELF

Machine-Learning is the name of the technology that is revolutionizing all industries. Carried over to cruising boat autopilots, it means that, for example, autopilot software will be able to learn on its own and handle complex situations.

The strategy by which the on-board computer will steer, adjust sails, deal with gusts, or change course, may be defined by the computer itself. How? With artificial intelligence. From automatic analysis of that data collected over the years from other sensor-filled boats, algorithms can extract the touch and feel of those experienced sailors who have already faced, or are facing a few miles away, similar wind and sea conditions. It is not science fiction, it is the same technology as driverless cars.

The crew on board will be able to interact with the system, and ask for a more docile navigation or a sportier one, so that the pilot on board will learn to adapt to the needs of the crew as well.

In red on the mainsail of this Swan 42
a sensor developed by startup Koyré to collect data on sail work.

WE WILL TRUST THE COMPUTER-SKIPPER AS A SEA WOLF

We will therefore speak of auto-skipper rather than auto-pilot. We will be able to delegate the complete management of the boat to the computer and truly enjoy a relaxing vacation. The boat will be kept under control by a supercomputer that can navigate like an experienced skipper, who can autonomously perform mooring or bring the boat closer to the man overboard. It will always avoid collisions, strandings, and storms.

We will sleep soundly even with the boat in the roadstead, knowing that the computer will activate the engines in case of an anchor shipping. The ‘auto-skipper will know how to run the boat, adjusting the sails like an America’s Cup trimmer…and at the same time, keep an eye on every rig, predicting failures.

HYPERCONNECTED BOAT FOR SERVICES, SUPPORT AND SOCIAL NETWORKING

In coastal navigation, with 5G, and soon in the middle of the Ocean thanks to new satellites in low orbit, the boat will always be connected. For the market, onboard hyperconnectivity means business and new customers: tourist information, remote diagnostic assistance services, customized weather services, insurance policies with black box, technical or medical assistance in case of emergency, home automation applications, security and surveillance packages with in-marine support, and fleet monitoring and management. The networked boat will then be a platform on which to sell APPs, as is the case with smartphones. New generations, they will want to boats equipped with all the social tools (wifi, high-definition cameras, entertainment…) to experience and share their vacation in real time with crews from other boats and with friends or followers left ashore.

IT WILL BE THE CRUISING BOAT TO TEACH SAILING

It’s hard to believe but it will be the boat, the one that is the most hyper-technological and automatic, that will teach sailing to the greatest number of novices because it will be the most accessible. If the boat is sail-by-wire, and hyperconnected, Training courses and tutorials by experienced skippers could be made remotely, during the vacation itself. The autopilots themselves, in teaching mode, could explain to the neophyte on board the principles of sailing by guiding him step by step, like a video game, to take control of the rudder, mainsail, and jib. This reversal of teaching has happened in the past for the camera: you start shooting with an automatic to learn, then when you get hooked, you move on, to manual adjustments.


AUTONOMY, GREEN PROPULSION

AND ZERO IMPACT

The green revolution will also come along with the technological revolution. Cruise passengers’ watchwords in the coming years will be autonomy, clean propulsion, and zero impact.

Motors that under sail thrust become electric generators, coupled with solar panels, are the real key to the green energy revolution, eliminating the need to refuel and allowing the boat to go anywhere for longer periods of time, while also reducing marina crowding.

New materials, disposable and environmentally sustainable, will play an essential role in construction. Already we are talking about flax fibers or materials of lava origin, or environmentally friendly resins.

France’s Windelo is developing hulls built with basalt fibers, Switzerland’s Bcomp is using plant fibers instead of fiberglass. OneSail and North Sail, are studying new materials to reduce Mylar and build plastic-free sails.

3D printing is changing the replacement parts market. It will be cheaper to salvage old hulls with refit works.

There is no shortage of surprises: graphene, a new material that has been much talked about for building sails and racing hulls, seems, surprisingly, closer to revolutionizing the membranes of desalinators used in cruising than the world of racing. The world of high-performance paints and antifoulings is also adapting to ensure the Protection of the marine environment.

Thus, the technology and eco-sustainability of the cruise boat of the future will make the vacation at sail accessible to a much wider audience. Even if the first experience on board will no longer be at the sheets of the jib, we are sure that by experiencing the sea, many will equally fall in love with the wind on the sails and many will still become good sailors, with or without tablets and 5G.

Luigi Gallerani

FOCUS – CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGIES, WHAT’S ON THE MARKET?


VOLVO PENTA,

THE BOAT MOORS ITSELF

Volvo-Penta already has its Assisted Docking technology available for automatic docking. It combines IPS technologies to maneuver the boat with a small cloche, as well as DPS technology for dynamic position keeping through gps and EasyConnect technology, enabling communication between different instruments and integration with tablets and on-board systems. https://www.volvopenta.com/assisteddocking/


QUICK NAUTICAL NETWORK,

EXAMPLE OF INTEGRATED AUTOMATION

Quick Nautical Network is a gateway capable of receiving all the communication protocols of the various Quick products, such as Maneuvering propellers, battery charger, windlass, lights and more and then send them, to all the new generation chart plotters on the market. An example of compatibility. https://www.quickitaly.com/it/prodotti/sistemi-integrati/qnn-quick-nautical-network/qnn-it/


SIMRAD FOWARDSCAN, THE SONAR

THAT SEES ANTICIPATES OBSTACLES

Navico brings together the Simrad, Lowrance, B&G and C-MAP brands among the most innovative technologies, ForwardScan fishfinders integrated into the SimRad plotter that see submerged obstacles in front of the boat, before arriving on the perpendicular. Also from Simrad, the new electronic compasses support GNSS systems in one element, GPS, Galileo, GLONASS, BeiDou, QZSS. www.simrad-yachting.com

RAYMARINE AND AUGMENTED REALITY

ClearCruise by Raymarine overlays chart objects, waypoints, and AIS targets on a dynamic video image taken by the cameras on board, creating an augmented reality for the skipper and making navigation easier by also showing, in low visibility conditions, buoys and obstacles that are on the chart but not visible to the naked eye. www.raymarine.it


HARKEN ASSISTED SAIL TRIM, MANEUVERS SAILS BY ITSELF,

OR WITH A CLICK

Harken AST is a sailing aid system that automatically adjusts sails according to changes in boat direction or apparent wind, or in relation to heeling of the boat. Sail Management module allows sails to be hoisted and lowered, load sensors detect blockages. Maneuvers are controlled through a central console. Harken Rewind or Captive Reel winches allow the system to let go and caulk without manual intervention. www.harken.it

OSCAR, ANTI-COLLISION COMPUTATIONAL VISION SYSTEM

Born for racing, it is available for cruising, a single unit to be mounted on the mast scans the space in front of the boat with optical and infrared cameras and provides real-time video-computational analysis Of the elements in water. As soon as it detects a collision risk, it can issue alerts, and through integration with on-board systems, some autopilots can be programmed to change course abruptly. www.oscar-navigation.com


GARMIN ACTIVE CAPITAIN,

WHEN THE BOAT

BECOMES SOCIAL.

With Navionics and the Active Capitain app, Garmin is placing a great deal of emphasis on location sharing capabilities to provide in a single access point, information on marina services, tourist points of interest, and most importantly, information of interest and hazards shared by other boats in the same area. https://buy.garmin.com/it-IT/IT/p/573254


ADRENA OCTOPUS,

SOFTWARE FOR AN

ASSISTED NAVIGATION

A laptop software for automatic or assisted analysis and planning of navigation and mooring that takes into account weather conditions and sea state by processing grib files. Makes advanced considerations for optimizing nighttime sailing hours or stretches where the engine will be needed. www.adrena-software.com

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