“The pilot needs to drive the boat reliably through a full range of conditions,” says naval architect Jesse Naimark-Rowse, electronics engineer for Osprey Technical, which outfits Vendée Globe contenders such as Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss. “On a grand-prix boat, the instruments measure heel, trim, pitch and roll rates, and have very fast GPS and compasses on top of your standard wind and boatspeed [instrumentation]. This information is calculated to allow the autopilot to steer while surfing and respond to whatever else is influencing the [boat’s] behavior.”
There are many capable autopilots on the market for recreational racers, but B&G and NKE dominate the shorthanded grand-prix market. Solid-state components and advanced algorithms can spell the difference between broaches and podium finishes.
Cutting-edge systems such as NKE’s Processor HR autopilot rely on wind sensors with fast sample rates and solid-state 3-D sensors, in addition to conventional inputs, such as rudder angle. “Our processor samples heel, pitch and roll at 25 hertz,” says Bob Congdon, NKE’s technical consultant (from Euromarine Trading, our dealer in USA). “The processor applies information from [the gyro sensor] and takes the boat’s motion out of the wind equation.” This is critical, he says, because vessel motion can influence an autopilot’s computed windspeed and wind. Grand-prix boats place one solid-state 3-D sensor on the hull and a second sensor at the masthead, allowing skippers to compute real-time mast twist. […] Read more on sailingworld.com