BRIGHT SPARKS 409 - Zeus on your side...

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Brookes and Gatehouse’s (B&G) newly launched multifunction display, Zeus, will broaden the brand’s appeal thanks to PC-like functionality

BRIGHT SPARKS 409 - Zeus on your side...
BRIGHT SPARKS 409 - Zeus on your side...

To use the geek terminology, the ‘killer app’ is the ability of Zeus to integrate GRIB weather files into its onboard Navionics charting. Just stopping short of PC functionality (onboard WiFi would’ve been good to allow GRIB files to be downloaded) you can install the GRIB files via a USB port giving a powerful screen of data that includes barometric pressure gradients and hourly weather-trend information.

So for skippers, sailing up Sydney Harbour as I did during the test of Zeus, and wanting to find the most efficient way around the Sow and Pigs reef, red laylines project probable port and starboard tacks, taking into account tide and even the yacht’s polars. Clever stuff, once it’s all been calibrated and data inputted.

Among the features on this Tactical Chart overlay are useful charts of True Wind Angle (TWA), dual-boat vectors (over water and ground) and laylines projected from target marks as well.

Other useful data shown on the 12in display fitted on the test boat, the 49-foot carbon Vamp that is readying for the Sydney Hobart race, is the Wind Plot. This allows the navigator to analyse True Wind history, so great for calculating if the breeze is shifting left or right, which could help tactical planning for any regular shifts. For the performance-skipper, the Time Plot chart showing heading trends over time is a handy way of monitoring the steerer’s performance, with a wavering line perhaps indicating a change of watch!

The black coloured all-weather displays come in 20.3cm (8in) and 30.5cm (12in) LED-backlit versions and are only about 12.3cm deep, so bulkhead installation shouldn’t be a drama on most boats. Controls are chunky input buttons for calling up radar, depth, AIS and several other inputs. But the best feature is the rotary knob that allows quick menu choices and can move the cursor speedily across the layered chart. For instance, simply click on a GRIB wind bar for detailed information or touch an AIS target for full details of the particular vessel.

The sail-specific Zeus is built on the Simrad’s very capable NSE platform, so a lot of it is proven technology. Zeus integrates with a range of other approved Ethernet, SimNet and NMEA2000 devices, such as the new Simrad SonicHub audio server for onboard entertainment, the Broadband Sounder Module and the StructureScan Sonar Imaging technology; the latter is ideal for finding safe anchorages and knowing what lies below the keel.

B&G say the new MFDs, code named Z8 and Z12, can also be hooked up via a data bus to control onboard systems such as lights, bilge pumps, tankage and other important utilities.

According to B&G’s David Minors, the new system is intended to complement the company’s performance software, Deckman, and its high-end Wave Technology Processor (WTP). In fact during our presentation at the CYCA, Minors introduced the latest version of WTP, the new WTP3.

With the impetus from the next Volvo Race powering parent company Navico’s R&D efforts (as well as competitors Expedition and NKE), WTP3 was release this month. It’s a much smaller and lighter black box, something the weight fixated Volvo skippers will like, and has distributed technology using remote sensors. The new sensor module that accompanies it will relay data such as forestay loads, keel angle and a myriad of heading sensor information.

According to B&G this system is a useful cruising application as well. By hooking up an advanced three-axis gyro compass with the WPT3 in conjunction with an autopilot, it makes for a powerful big-boat steering system says B&G.

With Zeus clearly building on the smarts of the Simrad NSE platform this should be a worthwhile investment for the sailor who cares about the rhumb line, even while cruising.

* Zeus8
* Zeus12
* WTP3

Photos: Testing the new B&G Zeus aboard the Corby 49 Vamp on Sydney Harbour; B&G's new Zeus Z* can also control onboard systems such as lights, bilge pumps, tankage etc.; Rotating the dial on the B&G Zeus MFD made for quick screen navigation and not useful charts for monitoring wind angle trends; Easily read, the B&G Zeus on-mast digital display; The B&G WPT3 processor is a much smaller black box than its predecessor.


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