Interview with Harvey Hillary from the British Sailing Team

The British Sailing Team’s Harvey Hillary tells us how equipment and know-how from the team’s partnership with Garmin has been helping the British Sailing Team monitor fitness training and deliver live feedback to the athletes.

What’s your role with the team?

As Head of High Performance and Innovation, my job is to lead the British Sailing Team’s technical team and our research and innovation projects.  You’ll hear a lot in the media about marginal gains and we definitely work on aggregating small performance improvements in equipment, but the key area for our team is to do the basics exceptionally well.  We focus on decision-making, boat speed and optimising human performance, alongside the British Sailing Team’s Sports Science and Medicine Team.

How do you work with Garmin?

Garmin is a really important technology partner for the British Sailing Team. The obvious link is in wearable technology – which our athletes use to monitor their fitness training – but my focus is on how we can use Garmin cameras, like the VIRB Elite, to enhance feedback in training and explore the capabilities of the marine-specific wearables like the Garmin Quatix marine navigation watch.  We’re limited by the use of GPS instrumentation during racing, so the value for us is in enhancing training by delivering ‘live’ feedback to the athlete or enhancing objectivity in the debrief.  For instance, the accelerometers and GPS functions in new VIRB Elite enables us to look at the facts when assessing performance, speed, acceleration, roll angle; which are all really valuable metrics of sailboat performance.

What’s the latest project you’ve been working with Garmin on?

Our Coach Boat Wind System is a perfect example of how our relationship with Garmin could be used to help our sailors win.  We already had a great coach boat wind system but we needed a replacement display that allowed us the flexibility to build a bespoke application on the Android platform. We needed a waterproof, Bluetooth-enabled device with a long battery life and a screen that could be viewed in direct sunlight. The Garmin Monterra did everything we needed and more.  Its built-in GPS, coupled with Garmin’s blue chart navigation applications, allow our coaches to pinpoint their positon on the race course, whilst providing the sailors with essential wind information, which gives them an edge in performance.

How are the team looking ahead of Rio?

The team is in really good shape. Momentum is key and the majority of our team have medalled at major events this summer which puts them on a great trajectory. I can honestly say that we’re sending athletes in all Olympic and Paralympic disciplines with a realistic chance of winning a medal!  Experience tells us that you convert 50% of your realistic medal opportunities so we have to feel confident in our preparations to date.

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