Racing out on the ocean, the wind can whip mercilessly and consistently, throwing an endless barrage of sea-spray and hurtling your craft faster than its sails and keel can handle. Other times, a swirling gust changes directions without notice or reason. Sometimes it fails to blow at all. The wind is just one factor in a list of constantly changing conditions that make open ocean yacht racing a grueling sport of both precision and data. When you're sailing a 100+ foot craft that's as advanced as a space shuttle, up-to-the-second information is the difference between winning and losing; between safety and grave danger. Enter the Afterguard, the world's first heads-up display (HUD) designed specifically for competitive sailing that illustrates both the capability and application of wearable technology in extreme conditions.
"Sailing is a sport that is played on an ever-changing game board," says world record-setting sailor and founder of Vancouver-based Afterguard, Alex Moret. "The wind, weather and conditions are constantly changing variables." Lines need tightening, sails need trimming—there's rarely a moment for competitive sailors to catch a breath. Add to that a few dozen teams of like-minded competitive waterman and you've got a whole new set of data points to keep track of. Teams must, for example, monitor and track the moves and locations of their opponents to best set their own courses. While onboard instrumentation has become increasingly advanced over the years, accessing this information during a race remained a problem. Until the Afterguard.
"The availability of the information has always been constrained by the physical location of the screens," Moret explains. "If you are at the front of the boat or if there is someone standing in front of you, you have no access to the information that has the potential to change an entire race." Moret enlisted local outdoor HUD specialists Recon Instruments, best known for their work in the ski and snowboard world, to put complex tactical weather and GPS information at every crew member's fingertips via a wearable display.
Using a Central Communications Unit (CCU) to process and stream data from the boat's instrumentation devices to the HUDs, the Afterguard is left with minimal processing requirements, making it both incredibly light and functional. Additionally, Moret approached the user experience design with simplicity as the overarching guideline. "We worked with professional sailors and kept iterating and tweaking so that we ended up with screens that are user friendly, but effective at displaying critical information," Moret says.
It's no secret that wearable technology has the potential to change the way we access information in our daily lives—reading incoming text messages via Google Glass, say. However, Moret suggests that the Afterguard has the ability to dramatically enhance performance in high pressure, time-sensitive scenarios—like barreling down San Francisco harbor in gale force winds. "They present an incredible opportunity to access information without changing or losing our focus," he says. Forget PEDs, this is performance-enhancing technology. "With the right information at the right time, you are able to make bold, confident decisions that will change the way you race."
The Afterguard system is currently available for pre-order with the Solo System package (CCU and one HUD) starting at $1,900. Visit Afterguard online for more.
Images courtesy of Afterguard