The NUCs and bolts of François Gabart’s new MACIF trimaran

Since 2013, Intel and yachtsman François Gabart have been working in partnership to build the yacht of the future—a vessel with plenty of room for onboard electronics. Now a new boat, the MACIF trimaran, is almost ready, boasting an array of Intel technologies.

The partnership between Intel and the MACIF program began in 2013. After the Vendée Globe (the famous single-handed, non-stop, round-the-world race), pro-sailor François Gabart met with Intel Vice President Christian Morales. The two men discovered that they shared the same enthusiasm for onboard electronics and wondered what the future of sailing might look like.

François Gabart Route du Rhum
François Gabart (MACIF) won the IMOCA category in the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe 2014 in 12 days, 4 hours, 38 minutes and 55 seconds – Pointe à Pitre 11/14/2014

NUC mini-PCs provide the computing power

Intel offered to work with Gabart on the 60-foot MACIF monohull, integrating Intel NUC mini-PCs to provide more computing power. Onboard computers are essential for navigation and are used for weather forecasting and finding the best route across the oceans.

The impact of new technologies can also be seen in the boat’s energy consumption. Energy is vital to the performance of any modern boat and vessels must carry fuel, hydro-generators or solar panels in order to produce it.

These solutions naturally make a boat heavier and reduce the speed at which it can travel. It is therefore essential to save energy and this can be achieved through the use of new, smaller, more lightweight technologies. The NUC ticks all these boxes.

François Gabart IMOCA MACIF
French skipper François Gabart on board the IMOCA MACIF, training for the Route du Rhum 07/19/2014 – Photo Olivier Blanchet/DPPI/MACIF

Communication and mobility are also important on a racing yacht. As the skipper of a boat tends to move around a lot on board, mobile technology is an ideal solution. To this end, Intel provided François Gabart with highly mobile, autonomous tablets and smartphones.

Gabart entered the transatlantic Route du Rhum in 2014 equipped with all these onboard technologies, completing the race with flying colours. On November 14, 2014, he emerged triumphant in the competition’s IMOCA category and set a new record by finishing the race in 12 days, 4 hours, 38 minutes and 55 seconds.

Binaural audio on the MACIF trimaran

But the adventure doesn’t stop there. Gabart’s new boat is currently under construction. It will be launched for its first sea trials at the end of August or the beginning of September and will once again benefit from a technological partnership with Intel. The 30-metre MACIF trimaran has been two years in the making and is set to take part in the Transat Jacques Vabre (from France to Brazil) next October.

François Gabart MACIF TRIMARAN
Building the future: MACIF Maxi trimaran – Skipper: Francois Gabart – Chantier CDK – Lorient 04/28/2015. Photo: Alexis Courcoux/MACIF

Intel technology was even involved in the construction of the MACIF trimaran. The architects based at VPLP in Vannes and the company’s digital simulation provider, Hydrocean, in Nantes, used Intel computing clusters based in the UK to create various digital simulations of the boat’s shape, enabling them to identify the most efficient solution.

The new trimaran boasts two onboard Intel NUC computers with 5th generation Intel Core processors (made watertight by Akasa). These will help to provide the increased computing power required by the boat, while saving space, weight and energy.

At the same time, Intel has provided the skipper and his team with a binaural communications system, enabling them to record sounds on board the boat and to share their onboard experience. Careful consideration is also being given to combining binaural sound and Compute Stick technology for use on board. The aim is to optimise communication between team members, notably through sound spatialisation.

The transformation of François Gabart

Comfort is also extremely important and mobility remains an essential technology requirement — the skipper must be able to access as much information as possible anywhere on the boat.

A 2-in-1 computer is a perfect solution and Intel provided Gabart with an Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi, which can be easily be switched from its standard laptop mode into a tablet mode. The ability to project information onto the outside of the boat is also being considered, to facilitate navigation and decision-making. Experiments to this effect may commence in 2016.

François Gabart IMOCA MACIF
French skipper François Gabart on board the IMOCA MACIF, training for the Route du Rhum 07/19/2014 – Photo Olivier Blanchet/DPPI/MACIF

Basis Peak for sleep management

And on top of all this, Gabart has also been equipped with wearable technology. Many high level sports people find it useful to collect activity data so that they can analyse their performance and improve it. For François Gabart, sleep is a key factor. When he is sailing, his natural rhythms are greatly disrupted, and he sleeps in short bursts, making tracking sleep a real problem.

With the Basis Peak, however, he can collect and analyse sleep data to see how much rest he is getting. The band itself is watertight, so is particularly suitable for life at sea. Gabart is also participating in ongoing sleep research, which involves taking readings from the Basis Peak. Thus far the readings have been taken on shore, but the device could deliver information during a race, offering a definite advantage in terms of sleep management and a potential knock-on effect on performance.

For François Gabart: “The boat’s performance is clearly inseparable from the performance of the onboard technology. It’s not the only issue, but we’re dealing with details here, and details count.”

As far as the future is concerned, Gabart also highlights the importance of automatic steering, which is a core feature of modern ocean racing. Perhaps this could be the next long-term project for MACIF and Intel?

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