Vakaros marked an important milestone with the release of Atlas 2, a sailing instrument in the now-familiar form of a tablet computer. The 5-person company’s software product, RaceSense, allows for a fleet equipped with the Atlas 2 to race without race committee or marks, creating a virtual course on the water.
For a competitive sailboat, the Atlas 2 can provide heading, speed, heel and trim. It counts down and displays the GPS location of the start line, a perpetual uncertainty for racers of previous generations.
The Seattle region is better known for its software development than hardware, which can be a daunting undertaking. However, when successfully executed, new hardware products can make a splash from the iPhone to FitBit. These are the exceptions though and it’s more common to hear “hardware is…hard.”
The second generation Atlas 2 includes an extended battery life, wireless charging, internal and optional external sensors, and a display designed for sun and the outdoors. It takes a sailing environment into account and is more rugged than the typical tablet.
The small startup already noted some wins this year:
- Vakaros began shipping its Atlas 2 devices, a crucial part of a product launch but especially in the ongoing era of supply chain complications.
- The British and New Zealand Olympic sailing teams announced they will use the Atlas 2 while training for Paris 2024.
- SAIL magazine, which has documented the evolution of sailboat electronics since 1970, included Atlas 2 and RaceSense in its 2022 Pittman Innovation Awards.
Vakaros is part of a trend making products that apply varying degrees of technology and automation to sailboat racing. This may be driven by a lack of regular volunteers but also likely due to the increased application of sensors, GPS and data.
With smartphones in hand, sailors also demonstrate a greater openness to adopt new products, not only at the America’s Cup but among local fleets as well.
MarkSetBot, a Detroit company that makes robotic race marks, automation software and app-based tools for race committees is also reducing the role of volunteers in race management. As previously reported by Future Tides, MarkSetBots are used by local Seattle fleets on Lake Washington and Puget Sound with plans to adopt additional technology from the same company in the future.