Seahorse Magazine: Faster, lighter... and staying dry
Thursday, December 10, 2020 2:00 PM
With epic amounts of data flowing around today’s performance yachts – racing and cruising – it’s critical to use the right hardware to keep everything moving
A+T has built a strong reputation for being experts in refurbishing and upgrading instrument systems on a wide variety of yachts, ranging from comfortable yet complex superyachts to high-end raceboats just needing an electronic facelift. They have a proven expertise in turning an old and dysfunctional system into one that operates quickly and efficiently with the addition of the right hardware and software components to become operable in the latest generation digital environment. Success at this has created for A+T a rapidly growing and loyal customer base of both racers and cruisers who are interested in fast, well-engineered and supported, cost-effective solutions to meet their upgrade needs.
What many may not know, however, is that A+T also excels in the design and installation of new systems, where there is an opportunity to start from scratch and lay out the specifications for all the relevant components: sensors, cables, processors and displays. More and more new boat projects are turning to A+T for their expertise and the performance, engineering quality and breadth of their specialist interfaces.
‘We install new systems to use a single robust Ethernet cable led around the boat that can link all sensors and displays so keeping wiring simple and weight down,’ says A+T’s Hugh Agnew. ‘For the new generation sensors and displays it’s important to have as high a bandwidth as possible because of the amount of data being driven at high speeds through the system. The system architecture can also be much more flexible with Ethernet than the old N2K backbone format.’
For example, masthead wind angle and speed sensors push through vast amounts of raw data that needs to be processed to calculate wind angle and speed. Agnew says that this is important for fast logging and for the compensation algorithms needed to correct for mast motion. This feature is offered on all A+T systems together with web server pages to examine and set the necessary corrections to get good data needed for both direct display and other calculated display functions in the system.
‘For our systems we are now looking at fibre optic cables as an even faster, lighter and thus more efficient method that can produce even better performance,’ says Agnew. ‘This is a huge advantage in designing and installing new systems over retrofits.’
Another advantage of new installs is having the ability to check the status of all elements on the system and have it continuously monitored to deliver software upgrades over the network when needed. And, when the new installation may require flexibility in using available voltage (eg, 12V or 24V), this is no problem because all A+T equipment runs across the full range of voltages from 10-36 volts.
For raceboats, where watertight interiors cannot always be assumed, A+T helps keep the instrument system running because all its instruments are thoroughly tested to withstand the harsh environment, right down to the junction box which has become a highly useful troubleshooting instrument. For yachts that want to run Ethernet over existing wiring, say through hard-toaccess compartments or watertight bulkheads, A+T also has a system to run Ethernet through legacy wiring. Both of these are key to the ease of installation on a “plug and play” basis of the A+T BFD (Big Format Display). This full colour display is the largest and brightest on the market with the ability to provide content-related colour schemes.
For example, a display of vang load can be set to change to a red background if beyond safe load and to a yellow background if too much in compression.
All A+T systems speak many network languages including CANbus (N2K compatible) and the original tried and tested NMEA0183. A number of raceboats are using Garmin displays; these are fully supported by A+T, including accepting data through external channels from Expedition and other routing programmes that can then be translated to third party screens over the CANbus.
As an example of a new installation, Stefan Jentzsch’s new Botín 56 Black Pearl is one of a number of new yachts fitting an all Ethernet-based A+T ATP1 processor with a typical raceboat specification of load cells, deflectors and highperformance compasses and GPS. Marc Lagesse is project manager and navigator and has been commissioning and calibrating the system during the first sea trials in late August. This project is using a number of Garmin displays.
Another much larger new-build project is also currently under way with an A+T processor, Ethernet backbone and some 15 displays including a number of the large format colour A+T BFDs.