On-the-water Atlas Testing

We continue our on the water testing using the 40mm digit layout on the Melges 24 USA 775 Team Jaws.

On-the-water testing is a critical part of product development at Vakaros. As sailors, we have first hand experience with the challenges posed by the marine environment, from trying to read a display in bright sunlight to dealing with waves breaking across the deck. We (like many of you) have struggled with instruments that perform poorly in this environment, seemingly developed without input from sailors or sufficient testing.

As we developed the Atlas, we worked with a wide variety of sailors and focused on getting key decisions right. It took time and lots of iteration, but we don’t think a software patch is an acceptable solution to a hardware problem. We constantly ask ourselves the hard questions that other companies seem to ignore. Is this the best possible solution? Will this feature work in the middle of a start sequence? Is our design intuitive for someone who’s never seen the user manual? Does this improve sailor performance? Every time we develop a new feature for the Atlas, we do our best to think through the use case and on-the-water experience, but there is no substitute for actual testing and no replacement for sailor feedback.

 We use on-the-water testing to validate our design choices and listen to the feedback from sailors.

We use on-the-water testing to validate our design choices and listen to the feedback from sailors.

Take buttons as an example. We’ve seen sailing instruments with capacitive touch buttons similar to those used on a cell phone. This is a feature that works fine in the lab but falls apart on the water; accidental presses due to water droplets on the surface and zero tactile feedback make for a frustrating user experience. With sufficient on-the-water testing and input from sailors, these problems could have been caught early in the design process. Instead, the “solution” offered by some of these instruments is a software patch to lock the buttons against accidental presses. Dealing with button locks is not what you want to be doing during the start sequence.

...we don’t think a software patch is an acceptable solution to a hardware problem.

The right solution is to use physical buttons that you can actually feel. There are no accidental presses. They provide positive tactile feedback. And you can keep your finger on a button and your eyes out of the boat while you line up a mark or wait for the flag to drop. Physical buttons are more challenging to design, more difficult to waterproof, and more expensive to manufacture, but they are the right solution and that's why the Atlas has them.

 Todd testing an Atlas on his Melges 14

Todd testing an Atlas on his Melges 14

In our on-the-water testing program, we’re working with Olympic campaigns, Melges 24, Marstrom 32, and J/70 teams to refine the Atlas for different use cases and boat types. Their feedback is critical and influences every aspect of the Atlas design: from the inclusion of physical buttons, to our user interface layout, and even the accuracy and responsiveness at the core of the Atlas. We combine this input with state-of-the-art technology to deliver an instrument that not only outperforms anything else on the water, but is also easy to use and intuitive.

We’ll be sharing more updates and video from our testing program over the next few months, so stay tuned!

For more information about the Atlas, click here.

Jake Keilman