Sensor connectivity vital as SP80 attempts sailing speed record

Wednesday, 23 February, 2022 | Supplied by: Fischer Connectors

The designers of the wind-powered boat SP80 have chosen Fischer Connectors for the data-transmission solutions interconnecting the various sensors that will equip the boat and its pilot to break the world sailing speed record. The technical challenge is to sail at a speed of 80 knots (148.16 km/h), powered only by the wind — 14.55 knots faster than the record of 65.45 knots (121.21 km/h) set in 2012.

The carbon-fibre SP80 boat looks like a Formula 1 car combined with a fighter jet designed specially to glide on the water, featuring a super-ventilating triangular hydrofoil and towed by a huge kite wing. It is one of several projects in the running to break the longstanding world sailing speed record, according to Mayeul van den Broek, CEO of the SP80 start-up based in Renens, Switzerland.

“This technological adventure is fascinating, as we’re confronted with extremely challenging physical laws,” said van den Broek. “That’s why our international team of nearly 50 people … is anxious to get the very best in terms of data-transmission performance and reliability. These technical requirements are crucial when it comes to interconnecting the various sensors with which our boat and its pilot will be equipped during the launch and the boat’s enhancement runs scheduled for the end of the year, and the record-breaking event scheduled for next year.”

The data collected by the multiple sensors and loggers monitoring the boat’s structure and the pilot’s performance will be transferred through the connectors, associated cables and electronic solutions of Fischer Connectors, a Swiss-headquartered supplier of high-performance connectivity solutions that are known for their ruggedness and resistance to demanding operating conditions such as marine and underwater, defence and security, medical and test and measurement.

“The technology partnership with Fischer Connectors is a logical step forward in our record-breaking ambition,” said van den Broek. “The innovations we’re putting in place to enhance our boat’s aerodynamics above water and minimise the friction of its hull and foil under water need to be monitored during the boat’s development phase as well as during the speed run itself. To ensure the efficient transfer of these monitoring data, we need a solutions provider that has not only expertise in signal integrity and data transmission and management, but also a holistic approach to electronic systems in order to provide the end-to-end connectivity solutions required for our sensing system.”

During the design phase, sensors are used to improve and control the robustness of the high-performance materials (carbon, titan, stainless steel) of the boat’s structure. Thanks to the design of the super-ventilated foil, stability is optimised and the impact of cavitation — a phenomenon in which water starts boiling around foils at extreme velocities, slowing the boat down — is avoided. During the speed run, data are collected from the various electronic modules and control sensors directly integrated into the boat, and from the monitoring sensor communications between the pilot and the technical crew onshore, including biometric data transferred through sensors worn on the pilot’s body such as vital and security parameters.

“The SP80 project is exciting and inspiring, as it combines innovation and performance to push the boundaries of physical laws thanks to unique solutions and daring concepts,” said Fischer Connectors CEO Jonathan Brossard. “One member of the SP80 R&D team is part of our own R&D centre, making the exchange of expertise all the more efficient and easier. We look forward to discovering the technological breakthroughs on which the SP80 team is working, and which Fischer Connectors is proud to support.”

The launch of the boat will take place at the end of 2022, while the first tests are scheduled in the South of France for the spring or autumn of 2023 — the two periods of the year that offer the best weather conditions for sailing.

Image courtesy of SP80.

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