Afterguard, the world’s first heads-up display for sailors


Sailing has always been about cutting edge precision – from carefully plotted maps, to handcrafted compasses and sextants. And now they have the latest and greatest in instant data – a Heads Up Display, popularised by the Terminator in the saw way that Minority Report made developers fall in love with gesture-based interfaces.

Wearables are very much the new battleground for innovative technology – although it remains to be seen whether they end up triumphing like tablets or crashing and burning like netbooks. You might be familiarwith the Recon Jet – a HUD for general sports performance. The Jet pairs with a smartphone and provides all sorts of useful performance metrics – speed, distance, elevation and more and connects with heart rate monitors, cadence sensors and all sorts. The Afterguard HUD is a stock Recon Jet with custom sailing software designed by Afterguard.

The Afterguard HUD is definitely not a fashion item but it helps that it doesn’t look quite as ridiculous as Google Glass. The system does seem a little bit bulky but needs to be robust for intense performance sport conditions. However, weighing in at only 60 grams they aren’t particularly heavy. They also promise 4-6 hours of battery life and the ability to swap batteries, so it’s a durable system, with the challenges of intense competition very much foregrounded in their design.

The units feature polarised lenses, a high resolution display (with IR gaze detection), an HD camera with microphone and speaker and an optical touchpad that works in rain, snow, sleet and sun, with or without gloves. The dual core CPU packs bluetooth, Wifi, ANT+ and GPO with an onboard gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, altimeter and thermometers. That’s a pretty serious amount of tech to ram into some eyewear.

I’m not a sailor, but even I know that racing on the high seas is insanely technical, and that competitions can be won or lost similar on who had the best data, quickest and can react to it fastest – much like market trading. And Afterguard take competition serious – the tech inside the HUD was last seen in the America’s Cup, where the cream of the sailing world battle it out.

Ross Macdonald, two time Olympic medallist in sailing said: “Heads-up Displays have only ever been seen before on-board America’s Cup boats. So often, the cutting-edge technology on these boats hasn’t made it to other race classes. The Afterguard system is one of those rare occasions when it has.”

The Afterguard has a Central Communications Unit that syncs with your boat’s onboard instruments and wirelessly streams that data to the crew’s HUDs (and it claims to work with any system on any boat, needing nothing more than a screwdriver to mount). This data is then enhanced by the onboard sensors, giving each crew member at-a-glance information for snap judgements.

Check out the video here:

The Afterguard displays a range of metrics to the crew, such as speed, wind angle, heel, depth and polar targets. And the system is smart enough to know which crew member needs to know what, and when – helping you sail as one.

But it’s not just raw performance data – there’s also sound tactical advice. Virtual Tactician tracks the direction you are looking in and helps when you are trying to clear a boat – way more advanced than using lines marked on a deck or a compass. You can tell at a glance if you competition is ahead and if there is room to cross.

The full Afterguard system is available for $1899 for the month of April before increasing to $2499.