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America's Cup

Land Rover BAR swap the Chase Boat for the VCB

One of the Land Rover BAR team's most successful mixes of technology and sustainability has been the BT Virtual Chase Boat - VCB.

The concept was simple enough - transmit sufficient data, HD video, images and audio from the boat directly ashore to the 'Dell EMC Mission Control' room at the team's base in Portsmouth.

There the team's engineers and designers can watch and analyse the sailing and testing sessions without going on the water.

The VCB was successfully developed, tested and put into operation in Portsmouth with help from the team's Technical Innovation Group (TIG).

Once it was operational, the team's engineers quickly came to rely on the VCB, and thoughts turned to replicating the facility in Bermuda once the team's sailing operations moved to the island in late 2016.

R1 flat out on the Great Sound - Click image for a larger image

To transfer the VCB to Bermuda two technical problems would need to be overcome.

The first was the data link ashore to the team's Bermuda base from the America's Cup race course out on the Great Sound. The second was the link from Bermuda back to Portsmouth.

TIG and Technology in Sustainability Partner BT had the right technology to deliver on both counts.

The situation in Bermuda was very different from that in Portsmouth.

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.

The second part of the problem, from Bermuda back to the UK was the easiest to solve, with BT providing a 45Mbps leased line back from Bermuda to the UK.

This is an uncontended, or unshared data line guaranteed to run at the advertised rate at all times.

The section from the boat to the shore was more problematic as the public network didn't have the required bandwidth out in the Great Sound.

BT researched, sourced and provided a solution – a private cellular network, complete with mast, antenna, receivers and software - military-grade ship-to-shore 4G LTE wireless technology.

It's the kind of thing that's supplied to the military when they need to set up their own networks in the field.

And now everytime Rita goes sailing everyone in Portsmouth is watching too.

Dell EMC Mission Control - Click image for a larger image

Back in Portsmouth, specialist software has been customised for the analysis work. The received data is then displayed on a bank of monitors in the ‘Mission Control’ room.

And it’s already producing results, insights into the data and performance that might well have been missed otherwise.

It’s also taken an entire chase boat off the water, along with its daily consumption of diesel – and provided a case study in how technology and innovation can provide benefits across many of the team’s goals at once.

Richard Hopkirk, Engineering Manager at Land Rover BAR.

"The BT Virtual Chase Boat has been a tremendous success story for our technical team. It's brought my engineers closer to the sailing boat than ever before, whilst at the same time reducing our carbon footprint as a team."

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