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Home > Features > Technology update by e3 systems

Technology update by e3 systems

We all look forward to different things in the festive season, don’t we?  Some of us are already picturing the delight of snuggling up around an open fire alongside the Christmas tree with our family and friends, in our bubble.  Others might also be going for a fun, socially distanced, Christmas morning swim, toasted with champagne, on Portals beach!

However, there are others who are doing some serious social distancing by being alone on the Southern Ocean, sailing at 40 knots, in the freezing cold with mountainous seas.  Imagine the feeling of impending doom as darkness falls on Christmas eve, being on your own out there, and thinking of your family and friends at home tucking into mince pies with a glass of red wine!

The choice is yours!  This last week a record 33 tough skippers have chosen the latter as their way to spend the festive season by competing in this year’s non-stop, solo around the world race, the Vendee Globe 2020-21 as part of the IMOCA series!   It is, perhaps, the ultimate extreme sports race in the world and it now happens every four years.  It covers 24,000 miles and the fastest time taken was 74 days in 2017 by Armeil Le Cléac’h on SY Banque Populaire VIII.   Alex Thomson on SY Hugo Boss was only 16 hours behind in second place.

Will Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning on SY Hugo Boss help Alex Thomson to predict his next move?

UK yachtsman Alex Thomson is the favourite to win in his extraordinary new yacht SY Hugo Boss, which has 350 sensors measuring wind speed, pressure, water speed, heeling, strain gauges, torsion, vibration, temperature etc, etc. on every piece of equipment on board.  All this data is being recorded and processed to learn about the fantastic machine that is this yacht.  Alex himself is also being monitored.  With the combination of all this machine and man learning, it is expected the processors, which are programmed with Artificial Intelligence (AI), will be able to give Alex a 2 second heads up to take actions before he needs to.  Interesting!!  It will be fascinating to watch.  He came in 3rd eight years ago and 2nd 4 years ago, so it will be interesting to see if this helps him to take 1st prize this time.  All this processing is powered by a significant array of solar panels covering the deck plus a small backup generator.  Another notable difference to the other yachts is a completely enclosed cockpit to protect Alex from the elements.

The competitors are not totally alone as they will all be able to speak with their loved ones over the festive season. 

In 1969 Robin Knox-Johnston became the first single-hander to sail around the world non-stop without support.  It took him 312 days, and he couldn’t speak to his loved ones during the festive season, whereas, take heart, the skippers in this year’s event will be able to communicate with their families during the festive season and indeed throughout the entire race, as all the yachts have been equipped with state of the art Thales VesseLINKÔ using the new Iridium C700 Certus service.

The VesseLINK is a small solid-state antenna, that looks like a very small radar radome and comes in at a total weight of 3.4kg.  It connects using the new Iridium Certus service that works from pole to pole.   It is L band and this service works in all weather conditions and is enormously reliable, which is why it is the chosen band for GMDSS by the IMO.  The VesseLINK operates with a 704kbps downlink and a 352kbp uplink which are the fastest speeds available using L band.  This is a fantastic solution for yachts heading off the beaten track and the only satellite solution for GMDSS Area 4 (global).

Coincidentally in October, we at e3 Systems were appointed as a Value-Added Reseller for Iridium Certus together with a number of our other group companies.  Our sister company in France, Thalos, has fitted many of the VesseLINK systems on the IMOCA fleet.

A record number of female skippers are competing in the Vendee Globe this year.

Since the inception of the Vendee Globe in 1989, only 7 female skippers have competed in all previous races combined.  This year there are 6 competing in this one race!

¨It’s still too little:  we are six out of 33¨, said Isabelle Joschke of SY MACSF. “But here we are, committed to showing that women race as well as men.”

There are three British female skippers – Sam Davies on SY Initiatives Coeur, who is back this year for the third time in her career, Pip Hare sailing SY Medallia and Miranda Merron on SY Campagne de France.  

Former firefighter from Barcelona is sole Spanish competitor

Probably one of the most well know British female skippers is Ellen MacArthur, who sailed SY Kingfisher into second place in the 2000-2001 event.  This year, local skipper Didac Costa, an ex-firefighter from Barcelona, is sailing MacArthur’s old SY Kingfisher, now renamed SY One Planet One Ocean, for the second time.  The yacht was in Palma recently for some pre-race work, and was greatly supported by STP.  We wish Didac Costa every good luck, as he is crowd funding his entry!  Please go to  if you would also like to make a contribution.

From Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS) to the virtual Balearic Yacht Show

Our US team attended FLIBS and they reported back that, as expected, it was much quieter than usual, but very well managed and controlled.  Masks were compulsory, social distancing was encouraged, and hand sanitiser stations were in abundance.  They enjoyed meeting several clients, new and old, and were made welcome aboard many yachts to talk about the latest developments in data communications.  It sounded a bit like the warm welcome you can expect from yacht crew at the Antigua Charter Show (sadly cancelled this year).

I hope you caught our presentation at the virtual Balearic Yacht Show on Innovations in Maritime BIG DATA.   The main aim of our discussion was to show how Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are being implemented in the yacht industry, rather like the technology on the IMOCA Vendee Globe yacht SY Hugo Boss, which I described earlier.  Please contact us if you would like a link to watch it.

Meet the e3 Team – Neal Davis, Stores & Logistics Manager

Originally from London, Neal’s early working career began in the UK when he joined one of the largest Mercedes Benz Dealerships in London in the Parts Department.   Over the next 15 years Neal worked his way up to a management position with his own team.

However, in 1998 he decided to swap the grey skies of London for sunny Mallorca and joined family members running a Music Bar on Playa de Palma – serving up copas instead of spares!

When the bar closed due to family illness Neal did a range of jobs before joining e3 in 2002. His background in spare parts provision made him ideally suited to oversee the setup of e3’s new stores and workshop unit in Varadero Palma in the shipyard.

In 2006 Neal’s itchy feet led him to move to mainland Spain where he set up a Garden and Pool maintenance business, but Mallorca was where his heart was and he returned again to work in the superyacht supply business and became a well-known face on the docks and in the shipyards. Before long, another opportunity arose to welcome Neal back to team e3 to manage the Stores and Logistics department.

Neal has brought the skills he learned during his Mercedes Benz career and used them to improve the management of the stores, which hold everything from the smallest of widgets to the largest of VSAT antenna domes. As e3’s business has expanded globally, Neal has acquired new skills in logistics, juggling bureaucracy and customs regulations in many different countries to ensure that urgent spares are shipped to yachts anywhere in the world.

Day to day activities include obtaining the latest prices for equipment, negotiating with suppliers for better discounts and sourcing equipment or spares for the various systems installed on yachts.  Neal works closely with the e3 engineers to ensure they have whatever they need to complete their installation and service projects.

When not at work, Neal’s pride and joy is his garden and he spends many a weekend keeping it looking pristine, so that he can enjoy sitting out in it with family and friends enjoying a quick dip, a BBQ and a few beers!  Having played semi amateur football back in the UK for 7 years, Neal is very passionate about football and loves to watch matches live on TV, much to the annoyance of his partner Debbie.  He is a keen follower of RCD Mallorca and was a season ticket holder for several years.  He is also a big fan of Formula One.

Finally, I would like to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and may the New Year be the dawn of a much improved 2021 for everyone.

Roger Horner

For further info on e3 VSAT and SUPER DATA

e3 systems

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