A TINY NEW DEVICE LAUNCHED BY SPINLOCK ATTACHES TO SAILS AND WILL KEEP A RECORD OF HOW MUCH A SAIL HAS BEEN USED AND ABUSED
For sale: No 1 genoa, one season’s use, very good condition’, reads the ad. But unless you went to inspect the sail – and even then – how could you tell how much the sail had actually been used? Indeed, when it comes to your own sails, do you know how many hours you used your genoa this season? How many tacks did you do? How much has the sail been exposed to sunlight and when is it due for a service?
You might take a guess, but I bet you couldn’t tell me with any real degree of accuracy, unless you work for a professional racing team.
Knowing and assessing the life of our sails is a pretty arbitrary affair and yet, like the tyres on our cars, it would be pretty handy to know just how much life they have left in them, especially for those of us who race. Until now, there has been no way of knowing, unless you kept a manual log.
But now Spinlock has launched a device that can automatically log and store all this data on every sail you own.
No bigger than the size of a standard matchbox, the Sailsense is a standalone, self-powered tag-style unit that attaches to the clew of your sail like a security tag in a clothes shop. At the heart of the design is a tiny UV sensor triggered when the sail is out of its bag and an accelerometer that records how many times the sail has flogged.
The unit even knows the difference between the kind of flog that results from the leech line going slack and the sheet being let off, all of which helps to create an accurate picture of what is going on and how the sail has been used or abused.
The unit also has a thermometer inside and, just as your smartphone knows which way is up in order to rotate the screen automatically, Sailsense knows which tack it is on and has a battery that will ensure it can record this data for around five-and-a-half years.
A smartphone app provides access to the data allowing you and/or your sailmaker to log and display the data from each sail. And because it is pinging its name via Bluetooth, each sail can be located and identified in a busy sail loft or locker.
“During the research and development phase it was interesting to discover that, given the reams and reams of technical data that is downloaded from a modern grand prix race boat after every race, the one thing that is still noted down by hand in a set of wet notes is a log of the sail use,” said Dan Primrose, co-director of Smartsail Systems, which has developed the unit.
“The advantages for racing sailors are easy to see. But being able to keep track of sail use would be just as relevant to cruising sailors as the system will let them know when the sail actually needs a service according to the time frame that the sailmakers have set. If they give their sailmakers access to the data they could be notified by the loft instead.”
The original idea came from Cowes-based Rachel Tapp, whose family runs a yacht charter company. At the end of each season they would be faced with sorting an inventory of 50 or more sails in a container, many of which would be in the wrong bags.
After teaming up with Primrose and forming Smartsail Systems to develop the technology, deck hardware and safety experts Spinlock invested in Smartsail Systems and have taken on the exclusive global rights to manufacture, market and sell this and other wireless data systems.
“As the project has developed, the potential for this device has grown beyond the racing market,” said Spinlock’s CEO, Chris Hill. “For charter companies the device would help with asset management while, for the superyacht scene, being able to assess the state of sails that are not easily moved and may be elsewhere in the world could be a big advantage. Insurance companies have also shown interest.”
But the flow of data isn’t just one way. Understanding more about the precise time sails have been used and the conditions they have been subject to should help feed back into the design and construction of future sails.
At the very least, to have a digital service history would make for a more genuine read in the small ads.
‘SAILSENSE KNOWS WHEN A SAIL IS OUT OF THE BAG AND HOW MUCH IT FLOGGED’