Image credit - Vakaros
The term ‘sailing instrument’ is broadly applicable to just about any onboard system with a sensor and a readout. While wired instrument systems are common, in this blog we discuss portable GPS sailing instruments from Velocitek, Sailmon and Vakaros. Aimed at dinghies and small keelboats without a wired instrument package, these portable race computers have transformed the level of data available to sailors while training, sail racing and during post race analysis ashore.
Velocitek ProStart V2: Best portable sailing instrument for simplicity
Image copyright - Velocitek
Velocitek have been a prominent player in the sailing instrument game for over a decade with the launch of their first ProStart in 2010. This brought a simple display with distance to line, speed, course and wind shift information in a waterproof housing with 3x AA batteries. The Velocitek ProStart soon established itself as the benchmark for GPS sailing instruments. In 2020 Velocitek launched the updated ProStart V2, adding a handful of key features without losing the simple design that so many people know and love.
The backlit display protected by scratch resistant Gorilla® Glass is crisp, high-contrast and easy to read in all light conditions. A new red light mode helps with low light and nighttime sailing. Hidden inside are a host of new sensors which transform the accuracy of the device. The magnetic compass, inertial measurement unit and multi-constellation GPS receiver all combine for high-precision & instantaneous information on speed, heading and position without the lag that could be expected from the previous iteration.
There is now a rechargeable battery, with stated 75hrs of operation. And that’s about it. There is no wireless connectivity, but logged data can be offloaded via USB for analysis in a 3rd party software.. The startline screen of the ProStart V2 shows the timer & distance to line. A simple progress bar appears at 2 minutes to indicate if you will be late or early on the current course and speed.
Why buy the Velocitek ProStart V2: For simplicity. The essential numbers and no more.
Drawbacks of the Velocitek ProStart V2: No wireless connectivity or smart features.
Smart sailing instruments - the dawn of a new era
The Sailmon MAX and Vakaros Atlas 2 both belong to a new era in sailing instruments. Offering wireless connectivity, compatibility with external sensors, wireless charging and a host of extra on the water tools. These connected smart devices open the door to an exciting new realm of possibility for smart race management, with automatic “over the line” detection, scoring and more. Vakaros offers this with their Racesense technology using the Atlas 2, while Sailmon offers a similar system using the MAX Mini.
As many dinghy classes prohibit the use of GPS, both these devices also include a class compliant mode where GPS is disabled.
Sailmon MAX: Best sailing instrument for post race viewing
Image copyright - Sailmon
Also launched in 2020, a standout feature of the Sailmon MAX is the ability to instantly review your activity in the Sailmon App. Your sailing track is neatly displayed, together with logged data such as heel, speed and pitch to help you gain insights into your performance. The day's activity can be easily compared with data from other boats or shared on social media.
The startline page of the MAX shows the timer and distance to the line as you would expect. In addition there is a simple ‘LATE’ or ‘EARLY’ indicator and the predicted distance behind or across the line if you were to continue with current speed and course.
With these new generation sailing instruments there is a balance to be struck between being feature packed and becoming overly complex to the point of not being practically useable on the water, in the heat of a race. At Upffront.com we feel the Sailmon MAX gets this about right, with just enough configurability, a clear display and big physical buttons which are easy to use even with gloves on.
Why buy the Sailmon MAX: Good features at a fair price, instant post race review.
Drawbacks of the Sailmon MAX: Battery life could be improved.
Vakaros Atlas 2: Best sailing instrument for battery life and customisation
Image copyright - Vakaros
The newest device on the scene, first available in 2022, the Atlas 2 sailing instrument from Vakaros offers state of the art features and excellent battery life. A headline piece of technology in the Atlas 2 is the dual-band L1-L5 GPS receiver, leading to centimetre position accuracy. The Vakaros Connect App is another great feature, providing straightforward interaction with device settings and customisations. In the day of fitness wearables this is exactly the kind of ability we come to expect.
Pairing the Atlas 2 with the smartphone app provides access to a whole host of extra features including customisable displays and sounds, logged data and firmware upgrades. On top of all this is a whopping 100hrs of advertised battery life. The startline page of the Atlas 2 shows a graphical representation of the boat and the startline. In addition to the basic timer and distance to line we get a time to line estimation based on a ‘target’ upwind speed. This target speed is measured by the device during a simple walk-through procedure which involves sailing upwind for a short time on each tack. This should be done prior to the start of each race so that it’s accurate for the current conditions.
Why buy the Vakaros Atlas 2: For features, customisation and battery life.
Drawbacks of the Vakaros Atlas 2: Some may find the cost of the unit prohibitive while the portrait orientation is a question of personal preference.
Conclusion - What to buy: Sailmon MAX, Velocitek ProStart V2 or Vakaros Atlas 2?
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As the advance of technology rolls inexorably forward, we come to expect more and more from our electronic devices. Compared with smartphones, sailing instruments have additional hurdles to contend with: the harsh marine environment of salt water and UV radiation, the demand for extreme accuracy, reliability, and readability in all light conditions. On top of that of course, the size of the sailing instrument market is niche compared with other consumer electronics.
Nonetheless, sailing instruments have come on leaps and bounds in recent years to bring us all the features we want in a compact and durable unit. The Sailmon MAX and the Vakaros Atlas 2 represent the cutting edge of development with a host of smart features. The Velocitek ProStart V2 still holds its own for those who prefer a simpler, more intuitive device. Whichever sailing instrument you choose to improve your sailing, we are here to help make an informed choice. See the range of portable sailing instruments we offer by clicking the button below:
If you have any questions about sailing instruments or need help choosing one of the products on our website, please feel free to email us at email@example.com to talk to one of our experts.