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Prostart vs. sailmon vs novasail


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Made the decision it is time for a time and distance to line instrument. 
 

I have an old race master on the mast, h3000 instruments and recently purchased a B&G Vulcan 12 as a chart plotter that is down below.  I didn’t even realize that the Vulcan had options for setting the starting line but i don’t want someone down below or screwing with an iPad at the start.  I assume time/distance to the line from the Vulcan can’t be fed from to one of my h3000 instruments in the cockpit. 

So…what instrument is best, meaning simple to use, easy to read from 15’ away at the mast and fast enough to provide accurate data for the line? 
 

Thanks in advance.  Will probably replace the race master I have with whatever I buy as I only use the race master for heading and timer. 

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This is like asking what football team is the best, get ready for a lot of people with very strong opinions, all with different answers.  

The simplest and most reliable is the prostart. Since you already have a Vulcan and H3 instruments I'm assuming you don't need a lot of advanced features and want something simpler than the B&G line and start program.  

The prostart doesn't have all the features of the Vakaros and others but that's their jam.  They market the unit as simple to use and does what it's supposed to do every time.  If your thing is trouble shooting electronics go with another brand with more features.  If you just want a unit that does a small handful of things very well and is quick and easy to use get the prostart.  

I've had two prostarts, 1st one was awesome, had it for about 9 or 10 years, since they first came out.  Only reason I got rid of it was because I upgraded to the newer version with internal rechargeable battery and better screen but the old one still worked after all those years.

Here's a pretty amusing video they posted a link to on the prostart page as an example of the antithesis of their company philosophy and seems to represent nearly every single piece of electronic equipement available today:

 

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14 hours ago, zks7 said:

Hi PsychoT,

I have the new ProStart. We both live in the bay area. Contact me if you want to borrow it?

The newer version I upgraded to that I mentioned in my post is the new prostart but thanks for the offer, much appreciated.  The new version is quite nice, very happy with the upgrade.  Haven't had a chance to use it too much though because it's for our small boat on the lake closer to home.  Maybe someday it will rain again in California and we'll have water in the lakes.  Maybe, but not gonna hold my breath on that fantasy.  If I was smart I'd mount the new prostart on the JPK and use that for start time and distance to line.  It's way easier to use than the B&G system we have on PT.

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The newer version via Velcro and lanyard (newer version has a better lanyard fitting) is used on 3 boats: Flying Dutchman (Anger Management), Martin 243 (Nice Rack), Flying Tiger 10 (Cento Miglia) and WAS used on our Melges 24.  It is pretty easy to use on all four boats. Hope you get a chance to use it. It takes a while to incorporate into the starting procedures (just instrument/boat/timing processing protocol wise).

 

- Z

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have a Novasail NS360 Pro on my ARC-22. It is easy to use, with separate buttons on the top for Pin End and Boat End of line, as well as a count down timer button. These are all separate from the individual mode and display buttons. It can also be controlled remotely with an iPhone app. Display data is also sent back to an iPhone for live remote viewing. The 360 Pro allows configuration and download via a PC.

I primarily use it as a start timer during races, as there is just too much for the crew to do while racing to mess with it otherwise. When not racing, it is useful in learning and tweaking the performance of my relatively new-to-me boat.

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I have the older Novasail 360 which has a fully gimbaled compass instead of heading by gps and gps speed that we use on my Viper 640.  I will not be letting it go with the boat!
 

Here is a little anecdotal experience.  First, I’ve never used the ping the ends function on the 360. The boat is small enough, so does not seem worth it. The countdown function is much more useful.  
 

Second, I’ve been working as tactician and nav on several different moderately high end race programs for the last six years or so.  All running different versions of B&G or NKE systems.  Every pre start routine we ping the ends without fail.  The data is either displayed on a GFD or on my tablet.  But, as best I can tell, it is nearly always ignored, even when I’m verbalizing distance to go and time to burn, in favor of………countdown!   YMMV.

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Hitchhiker has it exactly right. For years, on the prior boat, we used to go through the entire pre-start exercise with a full compliment of instruments, then armed with all the data setup for a start at the preferred end and upon making the final turn for the line in many cases find another boat to deal with so that time to the gun became the most critical parameter. For the current boat, I have applied the KISS principle and considered a ProStart but wonder if it is worth it given the baked in proclivity to rely exclusively on the countdown.

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Agreed, I never thought I needed it until we raced the J105 NA with 34 boats on the line. With that long of a line, the midline sag at times was enormous.  Those who had a pro-start or equivalent were launched. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I took the plunge a few weeks ago. Owned 2 Gen 1's. Traded the last G1 back and paid the toll. The 2 Prostarts we used were well used (at least twice per month, year round) and appreciated. I thought the close rate to start line was going to be most valuable. The Gen 2 is better in several ways: battery is rechargeable, seems to last longer, seemingly more accurate when compared to the GPS(s) we have aboard, lift/head display works faster, displays seem to be clearer (to me had to get used to it), screen shows up better than G1.

 

But the close rate feature requires a couple of factors beyond my control, and thus less of an impact to this time than expected. It has nothing to do with the Prostart. The start line needs to be set by the RC and you must be able to ping the ends before the race starts without impacting starting boats/fleets. We have significant current here in SF, and the marks drift - as well as direction of the current. This has been during the very light air in the past 2 months. Which has caused the RC to set up the line very close to the prep warning. In the light air/heavy current days, this makes it less than easy to get to both ends of the line with enough time to set up for the start.

 

The expectation is that in more reasonable winds the "closing factor" will be more of usable/practical advantage.

 

Is it worth it? Depends upon if you have a disposable $900 to upgrade navionics, and want help hitting the start line within 3-5 seconds. I wanted the help. It helps me confirm if we are early or late. With a current it has eased the anxiety. It will take a few more starts to really take full advantage of its capabilities. It has also taken time/training to add it to the stating sequence protocol(s).

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On 12/17/2021 at 4:19 PM, Golfinaspen said:

There are several Gen 1 Prostart units listed for sale on eBay.  My guess is that they can be bought for about  $300.  The intended use is basic club racing. Is the Gen 2 worth the price delta?  How reliable have the Gen 1 devices been over time?   Any advice would be welcome.

The 2nd generation is unquestionably better but that doesn't mean the 1st gen is bad.  It's still a very good unit, just not as good as the 2nd gen.  I'd say go all in and buy the better, more expensive 2nd gen but that's easy for me to say because it's not my money :)  You'll get a better, brand new unit under warranty that's supported with replacement parts, etc.  The 1st generation is no longer in production and will probably have limited support and replacement parts moving forward.  

If you buy a used one and it lasts a few more years it was the right decision, if it only lasts a year or two (or less) maybe not such a good decision.  Maybe ask yourself how long would you need the used unit to last before you feel like it was worth the savings?

The reliability of the 1st generation units is generally quite good but they don't last forever.  I had one for about 10+ years and never had a problem but I used it primarily on a fresh water inland lake.  Many 1st gen units failed well before 10 years and much of that is related to how often and where it was used.  If it was on a really wet salt water boat the lifespan of the 1st gen will be significantly shortened.  I think many of the issues with the old units was from water intrusion through the battery compartment.  The 2nd gen has an internal rechargeable battery so it's a closed unit which should theoretically last much longer when regularly exposed to water.

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