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Routing 2a of 7 : Routing planning and optimisation an extra brain as well as a pair of hands...

For the experienced sailor – and the world’s best sailors and navigators all use sophisticated routing and route planning software – this software is a critical source of information , while for the less experienced (like me) it is an education as well.

In the course of this research I have corresponded and talked with a number of the developers of this type of software, and I have been impressed not only by their sailing credentials, and their skill at software development, but also at the care with which they have struggled to meet the challenge of creating viable and trustworthy systems that can add value to the cruising and the racing sailor – without taking away any of the responsibility of a skipper.

It is a very exciting area of sophistication for systems aimed at the leisure sailor and is bordering on the class of systems that are truly ECS/ECDIS systems for commercial vessels – and I certainly feel that using this type of software – and putting effort into understanding it – will make me a better sailor – I will never be a  Michel Desjoyeaux – but I may benefit from his and other expert’s experience because it is sailors like these that are being consulted in the design and logic of the routing software. I will use the phrase ECS/ECDIS in  this series of articles to keep in mind that the systems being looked at are a class above the normal chartplotting systems availble to leisure sailors, and are in fact already sold to the commercial market or are capable of being sold in that market.

I will be posting my findings in a variety of sections relating to:

a) Data Inputs (wind, pressure, tide, streams, wave etc)

b) Boat characteristics

c) Routing algorithms

d) Charts

e) Conclusion

I really wanted to find some characterisation that would help to distinguish certain systems from others – so I thought I would separate them as follows:

TableA – True racing software which incorporate weather or other optimal routing calculations

TableB – Sophisticated ECS/ECDIS systems which incorporate weather or other optimal routing calculations

I will also list those comprehensive ECS/ECDIS systems – where routes could be created, weather viewed but without specific optimal routing calculations – they certainly can be regarded as “decision support” systems. I will also list some Free / low cost software that could still contribute to routing decision making

The focus of my review are the systems listed in the first two tables – those which incorporate some type of planning and optimal routing calculation.

The first group are out and out sail racing systems. This does not mean that they cannot be used for a round the world adventure or by a cruising sailor. Quite the reverse. But they really deserve excellent inputs – both from instruments and by human judgement and skill. Then they are capable of giving detailed and complex outputs. If you are not in the class of racing sailor and that is not your ambition, then these systems may be “over the top” for you. It would be a shame not to use them to their full potential. They are however the best of the best in achievement, and credibility when it comes to racing.

TABLE A
Racing ECS/ECDIS Software with optimal routing Publishers description, and feature lists… Provenance…

Expedition

$US 1,295

Expedition1
Expedition2
Expedition3

Comprehensive race software with utilising the Isochron method of route calculation.

  • Route optimization
    • Tides and currents
    • Polar functions to output, analyze and create or modify a yacht’s performance polars
    • Weather display and analysis.
    • Start display and advanced racing functions
    • Race schedule functions to track and analyze competitors
    • What if? functionality
    • Buoy racing tasks – instrument calibration, time to mark, start line functions, laylines
  • Chart-plotter that seamlessly rotates, mosaics and moves between charts.
  • Supports C-Map (NT & MAX), Maptech PCX, BSB & Softchart formats
  • Displays marks, courses, Laylines, track and race schedule information on the chart.
  • Simple handicap support.
  • Logging functions to record race data that can be replayed or analyzed later to assist with instrument calibration or polar modifications.
  • Stripchart program to graph any instrument function.
  • Support for AIS receivers.
  • Networking support
  • Interface to Simrad BR24 Broadband Radar
  • NMEA 2000 data (inc. AIS via Actisense NGT-1)
Expedition and its tools have been developed since the 1993/4 Whitbread by veteran Volvo Ocean Race navigator and Whitbread winner, physicist Nick White. Expedition has been used in multiple Volvo Ocean, America’s Cup and Grand Prix events since.

Expedition is continually refined by a core group of world-renowned navigators, including two-time America’s Cup winning navigator Peter Isler…”

Author : Nick White


Deckman v9.1

$US 1,327.95

Deckman

Comprehensive race software with utilising the Isochron method of route calculation.

  • Route optimization
    • Graphical or tabular presentation of optimum route
    • Tidal database for popular areas
    • Optimum routes taking into account land masses
    • Supports standard GRIB* weather files or create your own for wind and current
    • In-built tools for OCENS WeatherNet and Saildocs downloads
    • Compatible with SHOM tidal data (Channel and Biscay) and Local Knowledge Current models
    • Unique reverse routing algorithm to analyze competitor positions and effect of leaving optimum route
    • Polar functions to output, analyze and create or modify a yacht’s performance polars.
    • Wind calibration facilities
    • Calculation of Laylines
    • Windward/leeward course
    • Olympic triangle course
    • Complete predictions for future legs
  • Dedicated start display
  • Tracking competitors and time-on-time handicap calculations
  • C-Map version supports: C-MAP, BSB, Maptech, PCX and REML charts
  • Euronav version supports: ARCS, Livechart, BSB, Maptech, PCX and REML charts
  • Alternatively use any image file as a chart for a powerful planning or analysis tool

The 9.1 update enhances the GRIB (GRIdded Binary format) weather and routing functions, adding the options of displaying precipitation and wave height alongside the existing choices of wind speed and direction, barometric pressure and sea temperature.  By allowing the wave height display to interface with the Optimum Routing function it gives navigators the option to route their boats around areas of waves over a specific height, thereby avoiding seas that could significantly reduce performance or even result in damage.

“…Navico was born as a fusion of two of the leading international players in marine electronics, Simrad Yachting and Lowrance Electronics. With the addition of Brunswick New Technologies’ marine electronics division in March 2007, Navico is truly a house of brands, with the B&G, Eagle, Lowrance, Northstar, and Simrad brands all manufactured and distributed under the Navico umbrella. Deckman is a product of B&G. Deckman is the world’s most advanced tactical navigation software and is used by winners in every field, from sports boats to the Volvo Ocean Race and America’s Cup, the software includes all the tools you need for short course round the buoys racing, long distance offshore and ocean racing…combined with B&G instruments it hard to beat”

Author : originally developed from Sailmath, written by Graeme Winn , Brighton, UK


Advantage

$US 900

Advantage1_th
Advantage2_th
Advantage3_th

Comprehensive race software with unique approach to route calculation. It does not use the Isochron method but its own “Local Knowledge” method.

  • Route optimization
    • Graphical or tabular presentation of optimum route
    • Tidal database for popular areas
    • Detailed hydrodynamic current prediction models by “LOCAL KNOWLEDGE”
    • Supports standard GRIB* weather files or create your own for wind and current
    • Compatible with Local Knowledge Current models
    • Polar functions to output, analyze and create or modify a yacht’s performance polars.
    • Wind calibration facilities
    • Calculation of Laylines plus short range tactics – computation of optimal sequence of tacks
    • Windward/leeward course
    • Complete predictions for future legs
    • Long range tactics – “Advantage” routing function
    • Comparing user defined routes “Course Solution” function
    • Charts primarily from C-Map sources
    • Alternatively use any image file as a chart for a powerful planning or analysis tool using a “Chartmaker” facility

The LK approach to routing employs a fine-scale digital grid covering the sailing area. The times required for a yacht to sail between adjoining points on the grid (either directly or by tacking and gybing) are computed individually in view of the wind and current conditions applicable to that part of the course. These times are then added together in various combinations to construct and evaluate routing alternatives.

The Advantage Software with Local Knowledge data has been used by boats in the Sydney Hobart Race since 2000, the 2009 Big Boat Series in SF,Marblehead-Halifax, and the Newport-Bermuda races. and the 2009 Transpac.

Author : Dave Brayshaw, San Francisco CA


Seatrack

£550

Seatrack winning-tides
Seatrack3
Seatrack4
Seatrack5

Comprehensive race software with utilising the Isochron method of route calculation.

Seatrack is a software package that provides a one-stop, integrated performance, tactical and navigation system in three options – for grand-prix racers, club racers and for cruising yachts.

It provides solutions that maximise efficiency, performance and safety at sea, while being exceptionally easy to use – it has been designed by yachtsmen for yachtsmen

  • Route optimization
    • Advanced Chart Plotting
    • Route Management
    • Tides
    • Virtual Instruments
    • Weather Forecast
    • Performance & Tactical Data Analysis
    • Next Leg Apparent Wind
    • Optimum Routing
    • Polar Management
    • Sail Chart
    • Tactical Planning
    • Target Speeds
    • Target Tracking
    • Winning Tides
    • Handicap Calculator
    • Instrument Calibration
    • Start Line
  • Trend Monitor
  • AIS
“..Seatrack-equipped yachts have recorded a strong run of success over the last two seasons. These include:

  • Cowes Week, overall winners of Classes II and III and the Contessa 32s
  • Round the Island Race, winners of IRC Classes 1A,1C and 2A
  • The North Sea Regatta, overall winner
  • East Coast IRC Championships, overall winner of Class I
  • Dartmouth Week, overall winner of Class I
  • Copa del Rey, winner of IRC Class II
  • Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, winner of IRC Class B
  • China Sea Race, winner of IRC Racing Division B….”

Author : Peter Schofield, UK

…more to follow…

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