Fiber-optic navigation excellence for every boat in sailing’s greatest race

The 2017 edition of the America’s Cup, sailing’s greatest race, was a huge success. Held in the exotic and highly telegenic settings of the island of Bermuda, it was enjoyed by millions of TV viewers around the world.

The exploits of the crews in their space-age raceboats, using technology worthy of F1 cars to literally fly above the waves at speeds in excess of 50mph, had audiences on the edge of their seats.

A critical driving force at the heart of this spectacle, iXblue’s industry-leading inertial measurement and navigation systems equipped all six of the full-foiling catamarans in the America’s Cup fleet, including the craft of Emirates Team New Zealand who claimed the victory of this 35th edition of the race.

Recognized throughout the industry for its pioneering work on the development of Fiber-Optic Gyroscope (FOG) technology, iXblue has revolutionized maritime and naval inertial systems over the last decade, making its Quadrans gyrocompasses and Hydrins inertial navigation systems the natural choice for the competing teams to equip their catamarans.

Designed for use in the most hostile and demanding defense and industrial applications, all iXblue systems boast the signature dependability, flexibility and accuracy required to deliver extreme high-precision navigation under highly competitive racing conditions. Built around iXblue’s revolutionary FOG technology, the Quadrans gyrocompass and Hydrins inertial navigation systems are solid-state and feature strap-down technology, which makes them perfectly suited for high-performance in the harsh environment of a racing catamaran.

Once in situ, their open architecture guarantees seamless interfacing with all major GPS systems and third-party navigation software packages. And working in tandem with the raceboat’s GPS system, they produce real-time heading, pitch and roll data accurate to within 1/100th of a degree. That’s a level of precision at least three times higher than that which can be attained with GPS alone.

Which is just as well, because that’s exactly what is required to keep pace with the speed and sophistication of the full-foiling AC50 catamarans of this year’s America’s Cup. Ian Burns, of eventual runners-up Oracle Team USA, explains : “In the high-speed catamarans we’re racing today, the level of accuracy required has gone up ten times compared to previous America’s Cups. The iXblue units we use tells us exactly where the boat is, what its orientation is and how it’s moving at any moment. It’s very high-frequency and very high-accuracy. Even on a moving platform, with the boat heeling and such, it’s breathtaking how accurate these FOG units are.”

Burns is also quick to heap praise on the reliability of the iXblue systems used by his team and the other boats. “We’ve capsized with these units on the boat. Sometimes they get completely immersed underwater. They’re just incredibly robust and incredibly strong. One of the units we’re using today was originally bought in 2003, and fourteen years later, it’s still going strong.”                                 

This is just one example of iXblue’s unique and wide-ranging contribution to the success of the 2017 America’s Cup. Gathering, analyzing and distributing data with the utmost accuracy and total reliability in the harshest possible conditions, and getting it right every time. In the words of Ian Burns of Team Oracle USA: “High-speed data is what we’ve really become all about with these new high-speed boats. The iXblue units do a great job of that.”