UK sailing team using own internet service
Perceived weaknesses in the island’s internet network meant America’s Cup challengers Land Rover BAR will rely on UK technology to monitor its racing yacht.
The team turned to British telecoms firm BT as the risk of the Bermuda network crashing when it needed to send data and video back to shore and on to its headquarters in Portsmouth during the competition.
A spokesman for the team said that its virtual chase boat system — where a real shadow boat with monitoring equipment is replaced by technology on the racing yacht — was designed for use in England.
He added: “In Portsmouth, the fact that the sailing water was lined on both sides by relatively densely populated areas meant that the public network could be relied upon.
“The situation in Bermuda was very different. The more isolated piece of water and the island’s relatively small population meant that during the racing period, the spectators and media attending could be expected to strain all the public data networks.
“The team couldn’t afford to discover that suddenly, right when they needed it most, the link to Bermuda had been overwhelmed, crashing data and video delivery to Portsmouth.”
Land Rover BAR instead opted for a proprietary system — a dedicated “uncontended link” rather than a shared system.
BT has provided a 45 Mbps leased line between Bermuda and Britain, which is unshared and guaranteed to run at the set rate at all times.
The team’s Technical Innovation Group, led by management and technology consultancy PA Consulting group, worked with BT to supply data to team coaches, designers and performance analysts.
They found they would also need a private cellular network to link the competition yacht to its Dockyard base for onward information transmission to England.
The spokesman said that the team “had already discovered during the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series event in 2015 that the public network didn’t have the required bandwidth out in the Great Sound”.
Land Rover BAR and BT instead brought in a private cellular network, complete with mast, antenna, receivers and software similar to military grade ship-to-shore 4G LTE.
The virtual chase boat was developed to remove the need for a powered chase boat every sailing day, reducing the team’s carbon footprint, in line with America’s Cup organisers’ desire to make sailing more sustainable.
Richard Hopkirk, engineering manager at Land Rover BAR, said: “The VCB has been a tremendous success story for our technical team.
“It’s brought my engineers closer to the sailing boat than ever before, while at the same time reducing our carbon footprint as a team.
“I’m enormously grateful to PA Consulting Group and BT for their technical and personal support without which this would not have been possible for us.”
Howard Watson, CEO of BT technology and service operations, added: “Our networking and big data expertise will help the teams on both sides of the Atlantic to deliver better performance from the boat.
“It’s all about our ability to help the support teams and crew to make better tactical decisions through access to better-quality data in real time.”
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