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B&G's Vulcan Range: More affordable than you may think

by Mark Jardine 23 May 2018 12:00 BST
B&G Vulcan Series © B&G

We spoke to Mike Sugden at B&G about their entry-level systems. With a background and pedigree in the Grand Prix yacht racing circuits, and on some of the most prestigious yachts in the world, many club sailors believe a B&G system is out of reach for their yacht, but recent advances and compatibility with other devices mean devices such as the Vulcan 7 could be more accessible than you think.

Mark Jardine, With the B&G Vulcan 7, are you getting a cut-down product, or a fully-featured device?

Mike Sugden, B&G: Everything we build is driven by the Grand Prix market, so what we learn there we filter down. Today's latest Vulcan 7 has all the same technology you get in the Zeus3 - the sail features, the dedicated laylines - it's all there. In fact there is probably more for the cruising market in Vulcan and Zeus products than there is for the racing market.

Mark: The latest version has a bezel of just 8mm, so it's a really sleek product.

Mike: Yes, we've redesigned the 7 and introduced a 12 inch model into the Vulcan family, so we're now all styled in the same way, with a very low profile and the same look and feel. It makes for a really nice range of products which are more than suitable for your basic club racer system, all the way up to a Grand Prix, round the world race yacht.

Mark: It was only a few years ago that displays were really tricky to read outside. What's the latest version like to use in daylight?

Mike: They are brilliant (no pun intended! – Ed). The Zeus3 has the latest technology with the new SolarMaxHD screen, and the Vulcan range has – essentially – the same screens as the previous Zeus models. Both give real clarity in sunlight. The days of not being able to see screens in daylight have gone.

Mark: People may be put off, thinking it's many thousands of pounds to install a B&G system on their yacht, but the Vulcan 7 is under one thousand pounds. Can you connect it in with existing transducers if you're wanting to gradually switch over to a B&G system?

Mike: Yes. The Vulcan range is NMEA 2000 compatible, but that doesn't stop you interfacing with NMEA 0183 devices, so you can retrofit a Vulcan device to any boat. If you have an existing NMEA 2000 network, whether it's from B&G or another manufacturer, it will fit directly onto the backbone and access all the data. If it's an older system, we offer interfaces to convert NMEA 0183, allowing that data to be passed into the Vulcan.

Mark: So instead of saying, "It's B&G or nothing," you've actively built interfaces to work with other products, increasing compatibility?

Mike: We've always had the NMEA 0183 to NMEA 2000 capabilities and we're just making more of that – for example we have an interface for our own proprietary Fastnet network. With the Vulcan you can fit it to your existing system from any manufacturer and get those dedicated sailing features.

Mark: With your technical team based in the UK, do you provide any advice for end users?

Mike: We try to be as informative as we can on our website and we're always adding new elements for upgrading your boat. Right now there are a couple of example systems, showing how to interface a Vulcan onto an existing system, whether it be a B&G system from the 90s or another manufacturer's system today.

Mark: If you've decided to take the plunge and upgrade to Vulcan, what would be the first transducer that you'd fit?

Mike: Everything is derived from wind and speed, so that's your starting point. I'd fit the wind sensor first, then a combined speed and depth sensor which gives you boat speed, sea temperature and depth, all in one transducer which obviously is easier to install than separate sensors. That will give you the basics. The next addition would be a heading sensor to give you more racing features, and slowly add on features to get the system you require.

Mark: We're living in a connected world nowadays, whether we like it or not. What options are there to connect the Vulcan range to the internet when you're at sea, so that you can bring in data to the device?

Mike: The Vulcan range has built-in Wi-Fi which you can connect to your phone, using it as a wireless hotspot, and also as a way to view and control your data. With features such as our integration with PredictWind, you can then download GRIB files and route planning, all directly through your mobile phone and onto the Vulcan plotter. You can also connect to a normal hotspot when in a marina.

Mark: These aren't static devices when it comes to the features on them, and the B&G team are constantly releasing software upgrades. How easy is it to install the new software on Vulcan devices?

Mike: With our latest software we've added the ability to download directly from the unit. In your marina or at home, you connect Vulcan to a wireless hotspot, it will then talk to our servers and check for new updates. It can then update the unit itself, but also check for updates for the rest of your system such as instruments, sensors, autopilot and more. You no longer have to remove the device or connect it to a laptop, it's all on the device.

Mark: Technology is moving on at a fast pace. Do B&G continue to support older devices?

Mike: Yes, we do. We build products designed for the marine environment, so they are built to last. What we learn in the Southern Ocean is put into all our technology and we support those devices for their lifetime with extensive service programmes globally. Typically that is 5-7 years past official end of life date, but if a product becomes unavailable for any reason we offer heavily discounted new products to customers.

Mark: Many thanks for your time Mike.

Mike: Happy to talk!

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