B&G Zeus Touch
I spent last Saturday on a friend’s sailboat at a cruising fleet race hosted by our local yacht club. As we approached the windward mark, there was much discussion as to when to tack, and in the end, we overstood—and then spent the next leg debating the benefits of “coming in hot.”
This would not have happened had we had the new Zeus Touch from B&G aboard. One glance at the chartplotter would have shown us port and starboard laylines, distance and time to the mark, and even which way the windshifts were trending, should we want to bank on a shift to get us there faster. It would have sorted out the current thing, too, and accounted for its set in timing the upcoming tack.
Once the gear of choice for high-end (and well-heeled) racers, Navico’s B&G division is in the process of rebranding itself as the electronics maker with devices developed for sailors of all stripes. For the record, Navico’s Simrad is intended for the sports-fishing and power-cruising crowd, and Lowrance is tailored for anglers.
Zeus Touch works like most other multifunction display screens, allowing you to overlay information on the basic chart data. In this case, radar imagery has been added.
Yes, B&G still caters to the Volvo Race, Vendée Globe, and Grand Prix navigators, but its new Zeus Touch line is aimed squarely at the rest of us, with a 7-inch plotter priced just under $1,000 (8- and 12-inch screens are also available). Add in a masthead wind sensor, a speed and depth sounder, and a display or two, and for right around $2,500 you can have yourself a boatload of information, right there at your fingertips.
New with Zeus Touch (the touch is for touch-screen navigation) are a couple of nifty features. SailSteer is a graphic display of all your vital sailing numbers, including speed and course, wind direction and speed, wind direction over time (to spot shifting breeze trends), and average wind speed over time (to differentiate a building breeze from gusts so you know when to reef). It even displays laylines on its compass rose-like interface to help you steer more efficiently. SailTime complements all this and takes into account both wind and current to determine speed and distance to a waypoint and can display the information in various ways.
With Zeus, you can also use your choice of cartography, and overlay upon it graphics that show you your laylines to a waypoint, wind shifts, and all the other sorts of information you might choose to view, such as radar, weather, etc.
Interface the chart plotter with a B&G autopilot and you can essentially leave the driving to Zeus. You can sail in either navigation mode (steer to waypoint) or wind mode (sail to apparent wind angles), and your boat will automatically tack at the push of a button. You’ll have your hands free to trim sheets.
A few of us got to try out the new Zeus system a few weeks ago during a B&G demo day. I came away impressed. In addition to an easy-to-master traditional plotter, the B&G software lets you graphically “see” what the wind and current were doing, and that’s a real benefit, whether you’re racing to a mark, or tacking along a rock-strewn shore trying to make a harbor entrance. And if you’re an iPad user, which more and more skippers are these days, you can use the GoFree wireless module and App to take control of the system anywhere on the boat from your tablet screen. Neat stuff.