B&G and the Australian Sailing Team – enduring, evolving and essential

When you are so utterly focussed on getting the best out of a particular programme, you need to put only the very best into it.

In a way, this would have to be a streamlined version of one of the key messages from our super-coach, the masterful Victor Kovalenko.

When it comes to real-time sailing information, and the delivery of it, the Australian Sailing Team (AST) has for the last eight years been able to rely on B&G for the gathering and display of data on board their coach boats, all over the globe. Recently, this long-term partnership was extended for another four years, as a sign of the commitment shared, and it is not just for the supply of equipment, either.

One of the fundamental elements behind it all, and so therefore not that well known about, is the support applied by B&G’s software technicians. Usually this is under very short timeframes, quite often just before major international regattas, and it has to eventually be installed across the entire fleet. Throughout the tenure of the relationship, B&G have always been there and always delivered. Naturally, this stress-free environment then allows the coaches and sailors to get on with what they do.

 B&G Zeus home screen.
B&G Zeus home screen.

Laura Tolmay, Marketing and Communications Manager from B&G’s parent company Navico commented on the expansive relationship, “The partnership between B&G and the AST was first established in 2014, with the intention of providing high-end sailing electronics to support vessels across Australia for the training of athletes.”

“Each training vessel was fitted with a B&G Zeus MFD, heading sensor, along with a wind sensor, and the primary use for these systems was to collect and provide coaches with real-time environmental information, so they can identify trends and relay these to the sailors. As part of the sponsorship agreement, B&G committed to supply upgraded and newly improved equipment each year, or when released, along with support for software enhancements as required by the team.” 

“As the only electronics brand designed specifically for sailing B&G is committed to elevate sailing in Australia, and take a bigger role within the sailing community where we can support not only performance racing, but youth sailing and cruising. The successful partnership with the AST allows us to partake in youth sailing events, regattas, and various other activities that promote sailing, and inspire those within the fraternity.”

“It is a great honour that the AST has chosen B&G as an electronics partner for the next four years, and we are thrilled to be working with each of the athletes, coaching staff, administrators, and all those involved who share the same passion for sailing”, said Tolmay in closing.

Australian Sailing’s Performance Analyst, Sam Ellis, added, “The challenge we face is that in a sport as multifactorial and complex as sailing, is that there are no silver bullets when it comes to performance. The key is to be able to reliably identify and understand the complex relationships between the environment you are sailing in, and your boat’s performance. So you need to be able to respond accordingly, as the environment changes around you.”

Sailors watching the B&G screen on a coach boat.
Australian Sailing Team using their B&G system to analyse data. Pic – Beau Outteridge

“Since beginning my role with Australian Sailing Team four years ago, Brookes and Gatehouse have been instrumental in providing us with the equipment and support we need to be able to not only monitor our environment in real-time in a simple user-friendly manner, but also collect that data for long-term analysis. B&G have supported us at every major and minor regatta, both locally and internationally.”

“Every single one of our coach boats around the world is fully fitted out with cutting-edge environmental sensors, supplied by B&G, which means no matter where we go in the world, we are always gaining insights into our environment, allowing our coaches and sailors to identify trends in the environment, and react to get the best out of their boats, no matter what the conditions.”

“Sailing is a sport of decision making and risk analysis. The better the information you have on hand, typically then sets you up for a much higher degree of decision making. Be it in equipment choice, or course navigation decisions, it all relates back to how well you can determine what is happening out on the racecourse. The B&G systems we employ gift us with the most accurate and reliable information to base our decisions on.” 

In terms of being able to develop for the future, Ellis added, “The data we gather from our B&G systems forges the base of information that sets us up for all other research. Without a great understanding of the environment, performance analysis in sailing is near impossible.”

Of course, it all comes down to being out on the water. The AST is blessed to have the services of Michael Blackburn. He’s quite the handy Laser regatta sailor himself, and yes the understatement is intentional, but let’s not forget he has also crossed Bass Strait in one of Bruce Kirby’s ‘Weekenders’, as they were originally known. That’s quite the achievement.

Now today, ‘Blackers’ as he is known so well, is a coach. This time we are not going to veil his accomplishments at all, for there are three exceptional athletes who now all have the much-prized sailing Gold Medal to their name, stemming from their time under his tutelage. They’re almost household names, as well, and these sailors par-excellence are Tom Slingsby, Tom Burton, and now Matt Wearn.

Blackburn reflected on the relationship with B&G, which is significant, for he has been part of the whole journey to date. “AST coaches need reliable equipment that just works in harsh conditions, and also when the going gets tough during major international regattas. We’ve benefited immensely from our eight-year partnership with B&G, depending on their weather monitoring gear on our fleet of coach boats for accurate and reliable insights into wind strength and direction.”

“It’s also valuable for us to be able to compare weather data between coach boats to give us a better picture of what the wind is doing across the course. With B&G’s support, we’ve outfitted our fleet of regatta coach boats with feature packed performance tools that enhance our coaches and athletes understanding of wind behaviour. The AST is absolutely looking forward to continuing its partnership with B&G for the next four years, and all the regattas we will attend in that time.”

In something as dynamic as sailing, where nothing is ever entirely the same, something from way back when might well be the enduring sentiment. Back in the 70s and early 80s, computer theory was always distilled down to ‘Garbage In = Garbage Out’. Today, with society’s ever-expanding reliance on technology, it is probably even more apt than then.

So in the end, if you want the best from your sailing, you have to start with the best. In terms of performance data, and real time intel, that means Brookes and Gatehouse.

By Australian Sailing

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