Bigger, brighter, faster Big Format Display (BFD)

Even the best calibrated and most accurate performance sailing instruments in the world are of little use if you can’t see what they are saying...

Being clear on what you are watching has never been more important. And for this, modern sailing instrument displays now play a crucial role. Here, the A+T Big Format Display (BFD) is a game changer.

Larger and brighter than any other sailing instrument display on the market the BFD has the same footprint as a 40/40 display and yet has digits than can be configured to be 50 per cent larger than these.  But there is far more to this new display.

The BFD can display any number of panels or graphics making it more of an infinitely configurable data screen rather than a fixed instrument display.  Individual data can be assigned different colours for the digits as well as the background which helps to mark out crucial data from that which is of general, non-urgent interest.

With the latest sailing technology, the data can be contextualised with colour as well, so in the case of a panel reading running backstay load, the numbers could range through green, amber to red to provide a range of warnings as loads increased through to dangerous levels.  Alternatively, or in addition, the background colours can be configured in a similar way.

Each display can be set with up to six pre-set layouts with can be cycled with an external button or selected on a racing mode.

Alternate data channels can also be set up in one display area to save space for information that is non-urgent and doesn’t change significantly. This is particularly useful for data that is unlikely to be confused such as Course Over Ground (CoG) and Speed Over Ground (SoG).

The ability for different crew onboard the sailing boat to hone in on certain colours, quickly and without ambiguity is an important part of the modern performance world. But providing such an important function also requires the units to be robust and reliable. And while this is at the heart of all of A+T instrumentation systems, it would be easy to underestimate the challenges of building a large display of this nature.

"The fact is that it’s difficult to compete with the sun, but this is one of the key challenges of the environment we are up against.

Making displays clear in bright sunlight means achieving more powerful backlighting which in turn means heat. This heat needs to be dissipated, but that becomes a challenge when you have set out to maintain waterproof integrity and the overall robustness of the unit.

Cracking this nut was always going to be a tough one but we have achieved our objectives by dissipating the heat through the screen." says Hugh Agnew of A+T.

The ability to operate the displays in either landscape or portrait mode was another key detail that required careful engineering in order to cater for the polarisation that is necessary for the displays to work in both orientations.

The result is a display that is brighter, tougher and more energy efficient than anything else on the market and that comes with a power range of 10-36v DC as standard.

Each of the units is tested to one bar over and under pressure to take account of the additional pressure than heat and shipping by air can provide. Every unit is also run for an hour, submerged at one metre underwater before it is shipped to ensure its watertight integrity.

So, while the company’s goal continues to be to serve the largest and fastest boats in the business, this is also an arena where displaying the right data accurately and in an unambiguous way has never been more important.

Making a mistake at speed can be costly and for some, disastrous. Yet in the modern world of high performance, tripping up has never been easier.  High sailing boat speeds, be they aboard rocket ship raceboats or fast superyacht cruisers, is often accompanied by an eerily light feel on the helm. Traditionally, as sailing boat speed increased, the load on the rudder would build too providing a warning that things were getting out of shape. But today such feel has been designed out in favour of high-speed hydrodynamic trim, reduced drag and balance.

The result is that sailing by numbers has not only become increasingly common, but crucially important. Keeping the sailing boat on the boil, whatever it is, is far more about keeping on top of the numbers.

The BFD is part of our range of superbly engineered displays available. Alongside the BFD we have designed the MFD, 3020 and a variety of stunning analogue displays.