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Instrumentation Market Disruptor: We speak to Racegeek's Ric Morris about the d10

by Mark Jardine 25 Oct 12:00 BST
racegeek D10 © racegeek

We spoke to Ric Morris at Racegeek, the innovative instrumentation company, making devices for yachts ranging from sportsboats to top-end racing yachts.

It was interesting to find out from Ric why they started Racegeek, in the face of stiff competition from the established players in the market:

"We were looking to put a new electronics package on a Quarter Tonner that myself and JC (Durbin) sail on. We were looking around at the alternatives and the options were either to spend a lot of money or go with something that was based on twenty-year-old technology."

The pace of technological innovation in all markets is exceptionally fast and sailing instrumentation at the top end is no different, but many sports boats were (and still are) using devices they've had for two decades. Ric and the team saw that this needed to change:

"We didn't see why we should have to compromise with our displays and instrumentation; Why couldn't we have wifi? Why couldn't we use Apps with our instruments? The list just went on and on. In the end we goaded ourselves to give it a go. A lot of people have probably started off on that journey, but we seemed to have finally seen it through.

"We were also very interested in the analytics and the data side. People had tried to get that going, but the effort required to get the data off the boat into any kind of platform was getting in the way. We realised we needed to do the hardware as well to make the process seamless. Our data offload and analytics enters Beta testing very soon."

Ric and JC both have a technical background, which was essential in starting up Racegeek. Without their know-how and expertise, the project simply wouldn't have happened:

"We actually both have a broad technical and business background; we can do the website ourselves, we can do the firmware, we can do the software development. The only thing we lacked was the hardware engineering to create the PCB (printed circuit board), so we found someone quite quickly who we were very comfortable working with and closed that gap. If we hadn't be able to do a majority of the initial development ourselves it would have been impossible to get off the ground."

The Racegeek d10 has been used to great success in some high-profile classes and winning yachts, achieving top results:

"We were so happy to get a 1-2 at the J/70 World Championship. We've been incredibly fortunate with the people who have decided to give the d10 a go. I must thank Ed Furry and the team at SAIL22 who have really helped us get onto the top boats and Mark Luffingham of Eurotask, the two of them have helped establish our market in the USA, which is currently our strongest territory.

"The support we offer our customers is really important to us, so we wanted to find the people who are at the events to be our dealers. That way if a customer has a question, wants to know how to use a feature, or needs to swap their device, they can do it there and then and use it out on the race course. SAIL22 fulfil that role superbly in North America, but we're actively looking for more people, particularly in Australia and Italy where our newest distributor launched the d10 this month."

There are a number of products on the market in the same space as the d10. We asked Ric what was different about the Racegeek device:

"We focused on the core telemetry that you need when you're out on the race course; super precise distance to line, shift tracking, speed and heading and the like. We made sure boat speed and heading were extremely responsive, with the ability to change compass stabilisation so that on a strong wind day with big waves you can add that dampening and take it back off again when you sail on flat water. Many people don't like using electronics because of the lag creating a false impression so we worked on making sure that the d10 responds as closely as possible to what the sailor is experiencing real-time."

Taking this approach, the d10 displays the essential information, jettisoning the spurious parts, and simplifies the key data:

"There is a key set of numbers that the whole crew need and keep you 'honest' on the boat and in the groove: boat speed, heading and (something people are really picking up on recently for downwind sailing) heel angle - this is a feature that has made a real difference. With the big digits on the display crews have found they can keep their head out of the boat more than when using other instruments.

Whenever you talk to a coach, they say it's the time you've spent looking around the race course that wins races. By minimising the time you need to look at the display you can maximise time spent with your head out of the boat.

For those that want high levels of detail to aid in their decision making we provide the a10 App that connects to the d10 via WiFi and provides detailed context specific information for, someone who can be more eyes down like a tactician who can benefit from the highly detailed information that the d10 can provide in real-time."

The size of the display is a game-changer, where beforehand sports boat sailors were used to a small display they now have access to a large display normally only found on much larger boats for a much larger price tag:

"We had a price-point in the market that we wanted to hit. When we realised we could build this size display and still offer the d10 at a competitive price we knew we had to.

We also wanted to make sure that the appeal of the d10 stretched beyond the small to mid-size boat classes such as the J/70 and SB20. The large displays make it ideal for boats such as the J/109 or a yacht that is looking to add racing functions to their Raymarine Tacktick or ST60 / ST70 setup, which is an area where we are picking up a number of sales."

This compatibility was another key area for Ric and the Racegeek team:

"There's a nice little ST to NMEA converter interface box that Digital Yacht manufacture. A d10 plus a Digital Yacht interface is well under the cost of displays from other manufacturers."

As Ric has mentioned, customer support is key for a new product such as the d10. We asked him who customers would be dealing with when they needed technical assistance:

"We have a no-questions-asked warranty. Our interest is in keeping people sailing and many of the queries come straight back to us and we deal with sailors directly ourselves. We have our distribution network in the UK, North and South America, Australasia and throughout Europe (except France) and we're aiming to develop this further, continuing to work with people who are active within their fleets – those people who are embedded within a class and talk to all the sailors."

Ric and the Racegeek team are clearly excited about the Beta release of the upcoming analytics software:

"Our devices are already recording data, so with an update to the phone app existing d10 users will be able to upload this information and they'll be up and running. We just need to do a little bit more testing and can hopefully release it in time for Christmas!"

What a great present it'll be, both for existing owners of the d10 and those who are looking to purchase one for the 2019 season.

Find out more at www.racegeek.ie