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Hyde Sails 2022 One Design LEADERBOARD

Streaming to Hobart with LawConnect

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail World AUS 4 Dec 2022 13:00 PST
Streaming all the way to Hobart with LawConnect © LawConnect

Christian Beck's supermaxi, LawConnect, has already claimed first place in the 2022 Sydney to Hobart race. And for that matter, every race hereafter. No. No. No. We're not talking Line Honours, although that very much remains the prime directive of the campaign. This is all about being the first to do live streaming, 24/7, gun to gun, sun to storm, with four souls on board ensuring the delivery of content. Nice.

Opportunity is often spawn out of adversity, and clearly this is why we're doing this right now. LawConnect's Boat Captain, Ty Oxley, explains, "So this stemmed from last year in the race when we blew a water ballast valve down below, which then got water into our navigation laptop, and we didn't have the use of it for the majority of the race, which was detrimental."

Routing's kind of important, and Oxley then detailed a bit on their workaround: "Fortunately for us, we take four people from the company each year as part of their incentive programme. These crewmembers normally know nothing about sailing, but being a tech company, they're usually computer geniuses. Last year we had Gavin Smith on board, and he is the Chief Information Security Officer at LEAP, so we were able to resurrect some form of navigation station, all thanks to his computer skills. After that, Christian said we needed an upgrade."

"His directive was simply that he'd like it for us to be the first boat to live stream the Sydney to Hobart Race. I got handed that package, and I was able to draw on some of the skills from the company, and then use Grant Gosschalk from Olectric, whom I've worked with for many years, for the electrical side and to put it all together."

Two new, tough, water- and drop-proof laptops stemmed from it all, as too satellite-delivered high speed internet for when the 5G is not possible. Cameras were next, and off-the-shelf GoPros were selected, as there are a few accessories and mods you can use with them. GoPro would also assist with the tech side of things, too.

"So now we've got five GoPros on board. Two are hard-wired in, and one is through a wireless device that connects back to a Black Magic media console. All of this is what will get our live stream out to the public, and anyone can access it from www.lawconnect.com/sailing"

No free rides. Jobs for all

"Christian loves to give people the experience because obviously not many people get to be on a supermaxi, and we utilise them in various roles on the boat. This year with the live stream and media push, we're utilising them into those roles, so we've almost got our own media team onboard the vessel, and they'll be selecting which camera vision we get out to the public with our live stream, as well as handling charging and battery replacement."

It's about now anyone who has seen The Gahn, the real time railway journey up through the centre of Australia, is asking where is it all going. Is it paint drying, or the ultimate in living vicariously? Given the definition of offshore racing as long periods of boredom, interspersed with moments of sheer terror, it's a fair question. Of course we also spent a fair bit of time talking about this subject matter with the now ill-fated mixed, two-handed, offshore Olympic event.

In terms of the Hobart though, after the start, there's a huge hole in the coverage until the finish. Historically, the chopper blasted out and got some aerial footage, especially when inside coastal range, but it was all a bit spasmodic. LawConnect will definitely fill some pieces of the puzzle, and for that I thank them.

"Obviously on a hundred foot boat you have quite a big nav station, and we've split that in two, with the navigator on one side and the media centre on the other. A lot of the time when we're sailing we're straight lining, and it's not really that interesting from a general public point of view, but there will be a push to get as much of that out there as possible."

"I think where people will find it interesting is for the start of the race and obviously the finish. If something goes wrong, we'll certainly be capturing that, but it's hard to let everyone know to jump on now because we're in a gybing duel, or there are whales around, and so forth. It is more about people jumping on for two or three minutes to see how we're doing, and then of course, it's relative to the tracker, and people might want to see us blasting across Bass Straight at 25+ knots, or rounding Tasman Island at dawn, for instance."

One thing it won't be like is the inside of a V8 Supercar, where every patch of available carbon fibre is emblazoned with some company's logo, but Olectric, GoPro, and KVH Global Connectivity Solutions deserve a mention here.

The general public can ask questions and so forth, along with the viewing of live the stream by visiting www.lawconnect.com/sailing

Of course, the major sponsor, as it were, is LawConnect, and Global CMO Alexandra Steadman, reflected on the link between the business, the boat, and technology. "LawConnect acts as the ultimate portal between client and lawyers, allowing clients to book an appointment online with lawyers and then once connected, both parties benefit from communicating, accessing documents and invoices digitally from one place anywhere at any time, securely.

"Through technology we aim to provide secure collaboration tools that bridge the gap between everyday Aussies and lawyers, creating greater accessibility to the industry and simplifying the legal process. However, it is not enough to just foster efficient document sharing and collaboration online. It must be safe and secure too. LawConnect puts cyber safety and security first! In fact that it is our whole reason for being. LawConnect exists within LEAP and stores its data on servers provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS), the world's most secure cloud computing platform available today."

So then, let's finish with the first premise: Line Honours

Won it before. Been second before, too. Everyone knows she was built as Speedboat back in the day, and is the heaviest of the supermaxis. Designed primarily as a reaching boat, the thinking has been that she would not do so well when it is on the nose. Modification has been the answer to these big girls, as they march well into their second decade on the planet, and new tech has also come to the fore.

Oxley offers up his take on it all, "It's an interesting point, because I believe we are the fastest boat in the fleet upwind in 15 to 22 knots. So, although we are the heaviest boat, we are potentially the fastest boat on the breeze. We seem to be able to out point, and be quicker than the other boats."

This alone is handy, for all of them have definitely become a lot closer in so many points of sailing over the last six years or so. Remember, the Hobart is a windward-leeward, albeit one with a 628nm range, on a bearing of mostly 180+. You need really, really big wheels to deviate too far from the standard pattern, and the aircraft carrier is one that has previously shown what it takes to pull that rabbit out of the hat.

At one stage the boat also had like an 1100m2 kite as part of the aero package off a really big stick, but that is not the elephant in the room. That would be the horizontal stick. What a prodder! "We've actually got the longest bowsprit in the world, which allows us to project the A2 quite a way out. It's quite large and the changes, as well as sail development over the years (like the Doyle's structured luff flying sails), have actually allowed us to sail deeper and quicker."

Other mods include removal of the pneumatic hatches and going with Lewmar ones, removed the chamfer from the topsides, and then removed non-structural panels from her interior (something like 300-350kg), which means the sails can now go down below. Two benefits: significant lowering of CofG as these sails are heavy (her stack would be 900kg, and it is now about 1.6m lower down), and also then a much freer cockpit to work in.

Remember, not one of the supermaxis is today the way she was when she rolled out of her respective yard. Constant updates and development is the key, and this includes the newest of them, too. In terms of LawConnect, underwater she remains like she was after being resurrected post Fastnet.

One of those developments over time has been triple heading, which is de rigueur these days. Storm job is a working sail, then headsail, and then bag out front. The Whisker Pole has made a comeback, and LawConnect is no different in this regard.

"We've got a pole that comes out the side with a hydraulic ram unit. We can extend the clew out, and then have the J-Zero out at midpoint on the world's longest prodder, with two sails inside that. So the slot opens up, and we've started doing some testing. There's still a lot of testing to do in those areas as to which is quicker; triple heading, or conventional A2."

At certain angles and certain strengths the theory seems to point to triple heading, as the drag incurred by the big bag becomes counter-productive as the apparent moves forward. It has to be pretty wide to favour the Ace, and in a windward/leeward, going deep is your friend, as long as VMG remains buoyant. It's always about the numbers. Polars are there for a reason.

"We're here to win the race to Hobart. Typically it is a strong Nor'easter at the start on a beautiful sunny day, and then as you head South it builds and you end up on the wind. What we've tried to do is to bring our boat more in line with being a windward-leeward boat, hence extending the prodder, so that we're able to sail deeper and faster. We knew we were already good upwind, so now hopefully we've improved our downwind performance, and it all brings us more in line with a windward-leeward boat."

Talent is another key component to any campaign, and LawConnect are not short on that score, either. Other than Oxley who is Boat Captain and off to do his 20th Hobart, Christian Beck has assembled a crew that includes Tony Mutter as Sailing Master (and starting helmsman), Chris Nicholson in the Afterguard, Brad Jackson on the Main, Carlos Hernandez at the pointy end of Adventure Island, Chris Lewis in the smoking jacket and slippers, Curtis Blewett running the office, as well as many a talented soul, and other, maybe not so recognised, but still highly qualified sailors, like Alex Gough.

"It's not about individuals, it's about a team, and our team works exceptionally well from Tony leading everyone. We take on board what the young people have to offer, and mix it with what the experience guys have; all listening to each other and that's what builds the team. I'm a big believer in the fact that it's not the boat that wins the race, it's the team, and everyone around it, which wins the race. I believe we have the team that has a high potential to do just that," said Oxley.

OK. There it is. There is so much more on the group's websites for you. Simply use the search field, or 'edition' pull-down menu up the top on the right of the masthead to find it all. Please enjoy your yachting, stay safe, and thanks for tuning into Sail-World.com

John Curnow
Editor, Sail World AUS

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