The scene was unforgettable: Jimmy Spithill, skipper of Oracle Team USA, at the helm of USA 17 as the mighty foiling catamaran thundered toward San Francisco’s Pier 29. She was doing almost 40 knots with water vaporizing off her carbon-fiber hydrofoils as she crossed the finish line ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand to win the 34th America’s Cup.
While Spithill and company became acclimatized to jaw-dropping speeds during AC34, this sort of “fantasyland sailing” would have been impossible without precise and easy-to-read sailing data. USA 17 was wired with a bevy of sensors that monitored myriad onboard metrics; these numbers were wirelessly shared with wrist– and glasses-mounted displaysthat Spithill and his afterguard wore, giving them at-a-glance access to all pertinent boat information.
Spithill needed up-to-the-nanosecond data, but most boaters operate with significantly wider margins of error. Still, this doesn’t diminish people’s appetites for real-time information and cutting-edge technology. Enter wearables, a nichemarine-electronics market that Garmin has long commanded thanks to its involvement in the fitness and outdoor industries, which drove the company to innovate GPS smartwatches, fitness monitors and, more recently, a glasses-mounted head-up display.