MATTHEW SHEA­HAN

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

Yachting World - - Front Page -

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’

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