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Scuttlebutt News:
Communication Solutions for the Sport

(January 2, 2008) Ever wonder what about the fancy headsets worn by the crew on some of premier racing programs? “The Loop” communication system was on three of the 2007 America’s Cup teams, notably Alinghi, as well as multiple maxi programs. Scuttlebutt reader Paul Larkin, the founder of CSC&E, produces “The Loop” and he himself is still a sailor on the America’s Cup and maxi scene. Here is his report on what his company has developed:

Technology has increasingly been incorporated all over the racing industry, and consequently the yachts are continually becoming faster and louder. This was putting a premium on crew work and taxing crew communication. The technical growth in yachting was so impressive everywhere, but ironically we still could not simply speak to each other despite all the impressive technology surrounding us. Crews resorted to yelling and hand signals. The advent of the Z-max 86 class in 2003 with Pyewacket and Morning Glory prompted a search into advanced crew communication systems.

Victory Challenge, 2007 America’s Cup
photo: Oskar Kihlborg
For the next three years communication products (headsets, radios, intercoms) touting clear communication in hazardous environments were gathered from the world over, military and otherwise, and ultimately all failed to provide what was needed. In the military or hazardous industry the individuals all wore helmets and so we sailors were at a disadvantage. Radios were not under consideration because buttons needed to be pushed or one channel lockout repeatedly caused too many issues.

Systems were built and tested at advanced prototyping facilities. Headsets and beltpacks and base stations and all manner of product were profiled by oscilloscopes and spectrum analyzers in the lab to assess their acoustic nature followed by real world, windy testing on high-speed motor boats, open truck beds, grand prix sailing yachts and finally the America’s Cup. None of the large communication companies involved with the various Cup teams had been able to produce a useable system for this specification.

Three complete systems were produced before the final system that is being used today. Natural hands-free group conversation without having to push buttons, all in a small, unobtrusive, submersible secure package that allow crews to communicate in open channel in excess of 65 knots of direct wind contact. “The Loop” consists of a small base station, beltpacks and three unobtrusive headsets styles. The system is simple. Turn it on and begin speaking or you can turn your mic off while still listening.

The general terminology for this type of natural conversation is full-duplex communication, party-line or open channel. All speakers can simultaneous speak and hear each other. This style of communication that “The Loop” provides allows the group to converse naturally in 65 knots of wind just as they would converse in 5 knots of wind. There are no buttons to push or protocols involved.

Currently early models of “The Loop” are available to the general racing community in limited numbers. Systems are built-to-order with a 30-60 day lead-time and begin at $17,700 USD for a four-man system that is submersible with a one-year warranty. Additional details at

Scuttlebutt Sailing Club

GMT Composites

Team McLube

Lemon & Line

Newport Shipyard

Kaenon Polarized

Melges Performance Sailboats

Atlantis WeatherGear

North Sails

North U.

Team One Newport

Doyle Sails

Annapolis Performance Sailing

Ullman Sails

Point Loma Outfitting

click here for list of preferred suppliers

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