Inside Eric’s Umpire PWC, and ACWS in Venice


I’ve corresponded with Eric Steinberg for years — and wrote about some of his offshore racing electronics ideas in 2010 — but what a pleasure it was to meet him in San Diego. Aside from overseeing Farallon Electronics and IstarGPS, he is now Director of Electronics Systems for the Americas Cup Race Management and hence responsible for nav, comms, and race management tech on some 29 support vessels. Yet it was Eric who took the time to patiently explain the many-layered systems that I tried to write about in Yachting. He was especially proud of what they managed to squeeze into the “personal watercraft” (PWC) that some of the umpires use to chase the AC45 catamarans (pictured here)…

Fitted under each PWC seat, besides for the Ubiquity Bullet high-frequency comms radio (and its special notch filter) is a yellow pelican case containing the IstarGPS Eric developed with Stan Honey and others. It may not have quite the position and motion precision as the NovAtel systems used on the race and mark boats, but it sure lets the main umpires ashore know just where their mobile colleagues are…


One thing Eric has been working on — when he has time — is how to take best advantage of the Istar’s four auxiliary serial inputs (note the unused terminal strips below). He’s also planning to use the unit’s ability to power its Ethernet port to drive a Ubiquity UniFi Outdoor WiFi radio so that the IstarGPS could become a very sophisticated data server to mobile racing apps (while still feeding a PC nav system via the UniFi’s other Ethernet port). Apps developers and potential business partners are encouraged to get in touch, though today Eric is probably focused on what’s happening in Venice…


The Americas Cup World Series is the other subject I want to touch on today, but first here’s a umpire view of AC Race Management’s PWC setup. Stowe Marine Electronics is an old name in boat instruments, and some thought an extinct one, but apparently that Dataline GX was easily modified to display the umpire chat network and holds up fine to the wet bashing it gets aboard these jet boats.


Now to Venice. Before I became an ACWS fan boy I was already very fond of this odd little island city as result of spending 10 days vacationing out of a water view apartment I can just make out in the photo below. Seeing the carbon cats mix with Venician boating life is pretty amazing even just in photographs…


The mahogany gem below, for instance, is one of the “town cars” you see all around Venice, but in city where not even bikes work — over 400 bridges, many high and stepped — the delivery men, house carpenters, etc. all have boats… 


Moreover, the ACWS race and support boats are making a temporary home in the Arsenal, a fortified boatyard/marina whose current structures were started in about 1104 and were key to little Venice’s long and extraordinary domination of the Mediterranean. (Adam Block recommends this recent book on the subject.) Thus the utility boats below — now replaced at most marks by the neato FRB 13’s — are showing off their Garmin MFDs, ultrasonic wind sensors, et al in a spot once used by triremes!
  What I’m recommending is watching the ACWS racing on YouTube with an eye to Venetian detail. The course used today — Loick Peyron proved that this is not just a young man’s game — is outside the Lagoon, but we should also get to see the 45’s racing on the Grand Canal, as in the practice shot above. If anyone can run a fast, fair race in a situation like that, it’s Eric Steinberg and the rest of the ACRM team.


Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

7 Responses

  1. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Excellent, the AC cats are racing right in the mouth of the Grand Canal. Right now!

  2. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Incidentally, Fly-to-Map has online charts of the Venice area. Just search “Venice, Italy” and you’ll see how limited the race course possibilities are inside the Lagoon:
    And Bing has good sat photo maps of Venice:
    I stayed near the corner of Via Garibaldi and the waterfront, just south of the Arsenal. Highly recommended area, especially as it’s largely out of the tourist area.

  3. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Cool. LiveLine can now show when a boat gets a penalty — which is happening fairly frequently in these light, tight conditions — and also how much distance it has to give up to make good on the penalty.
    LiveLine — detailed on Panbo here: — recently won an Emmy for Technical Innovation AND I just learned that there’s now an ACWS tracking app out that uses the freely available realtime data stream. CupExperience, which is great, has the story and links:

  4. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Last day of AC 45 racing in Venice and it’s arguably as exciting in very light conditions as it is in a breeze.
    I’ve been in touch with Eric and he’s having a ball. Check out photos of the AC teams sailing ancient Venetian designs and enjoying a lunch for 600 set on a very long table set down the middle of Via Garibaldi:
    The Volvo Ocean Race is also starting its trans Atlantic leg in Miami today:

  5. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Live coverage of ACWS in Newport starts in a few minutes:
    I believe that our man Dan Corcoran is there and will be reporting on his experience soon.

  6. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    That’s right. Some on the scene Panbo reporting is in the works from Newport.
    I have to say this is an exciting place to be, especially if your on the race course on a mark boat. You can reach out and touch these guys.
    Rather than inflatable marks, ACWS uses powered mark boats as marks, that the competitors round on the race course. Every inch a competitor sails past a mark boat before turning around, is 2 inches wasted in the distance they need to travel on the course.
    Sometimes the competitors bump the mark boats as they attempt to round as it happened today in the mark boat adjacent to mine. Just like that, bow pulpit gone, photographer on bow not missing a beat just trying to get the shot.
    Of yea, the electronics are exciting too. Be back soon.

  7. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    The second season of AC World Series has begun in San Francisco with 11 AC45 cats headed to the fleet race starting lines. And they’ve got new apps for watching the action:

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