Leonid Altukhov: from IT to sailing and back

Regattascope. The story of creation.

Leonid Altukhov is a world-famous specialist in software development and IT technologies. He has held high positions in major international companies for decades. He also is a true fan of sailing and ready to spend time on it. Not only as a hobby but also to create a brand-new software product, which will be useful for all sailors, from beginners to professionals.

Below is the story of business and hobby merged together and what came out of it, as told by Leonid Altukhov himself.

Leonid Altukhov: from IT to sailing and back

Information Technologies

I’ve been into IT my whole life. Worked at IBM for almost 20 years, and was a vice president there. Eventually, I realized that I don’t want to work in a big corporation anymore, so I decided to create something of my own. That’s how the story of InterProCom began. InterProCom is specialized in software development and business automation. If we turn back to the USSR times, we also had those departments of automatization of systems of control. It’s pretty much the same what we call the IT Departments nowadays. The idea of a tracking system for online broadcasting of sailing regattas was born at the crossroads of two parts of my life: IT and sailing.

All participants of competitions want to see how their rivals/friends do at other regattas; they want to discuss maneuvers, who was right and who was wrong. Who overtook whom, who was cutting in front (laughing)

To tell you the truth, this product we are creating now (informational analytical system Regattascope) is approximately a two-year project. And tracking is only one part of many. We hope it can become something of a social network for sailors, both for professionals and amatures. One of the parts we haven’t implemented yet is the option to exchange opinions and discuss the races. We are not only creating a tracker, but also a platform for communication.

Why do you think sailors usually gather together after a regatta? They want to discuss how the starts and races were. There are also some people, who are not present at the regatta itself, but are interested in it and want to share their opinion as well.

I think in the future we can also use our system as an instrument to attract more people into sailing.

Sailing

All sailing nuances are no secrets to you, obviously. How did you end up doing this sport?

I started sailing when I was already an adult, so I couldn’t really train on Optimist boat. (smiling) Once my friends asked me why I don’t do sailing and I started thinking “Why indeed?” In the Soviet Union when I was growing up, sailing was not easily accessible, that is probably part of the reason. Only people who lived at the seashore or other ‘big water’ places could do it back then.

At some point, I was just ready to sail. Maybe I started with the wrong class for beginners: the Dragon boat. Why wrong you might ask. Some people call sailing ‘chess on the water’ because you really need to work hard with your brain here. But even then it’s all about the feelings: you need to feel the water, the wind, the wave in order to do everything right; to feel it with your gut, so to speak. I know one sailor who once called a Dragon boat ‘a piece of pier.’ Indeed, you are sitting on it like a featherbed, and you need to be a princess to feel a pea under the boat; and not everyone can be that princess… A two-ton Dragon doesn’t allow the beginner to fully feel the dynamic, the connection to the water and waves. So I changed to the Laser class, which is as close to the water as possible. If you do something wrong, you turn upside down. And it teaches you super quickly since you don’t want to flip all the time.

After that, I moved on to the SB20. I was lucky to be able to gather a team of great masters, such as Ruslana Taran and Igor Matvienko. We were practicing a lot together, while preparing for the World Championship, for the whole year. On this boat, I truly felt the water and experienced the teamwork.

In the past one year and a half, I have been sailing in the Melges 20. I had some friends who were racing in this class, and they told me it is the right one. Now I see it for myself: on one side this yacht is as demanding as the Olympic class, on the other amateurs can train on it properly as well.

How long have you been sailing already?

12 years.

That’s quite a lot…

As an amateur sailor, my knowledge and skills are quite good. I think I learned a lot from working with great professional sailors, have been on a team with them. A child, for example, learns things instinctively; as an adult, you have to do it only with your brain. That is why a good team and a good coach are a necessity. It’s a whole science: the moves of a sailor, tactics, etc. Even if you are at the helm, you cannot just sit around like a potato sack!

Leonid Altukhov: from IT to sailing and back

Regattascope

I’ve been sailing for 12 years, and for almost 10 years I have been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Sailing Federation. Of course, we spend some money on coaching, equipment for young sailors, etc. But the idea of promoting sailing was always there. And in order for a sport to be popular, it needs to be tangible first. For instance Formula 1: if it’s not clear what is happening on the track, it’s not interesting to watch it. It’s necessary to have a ‘right’ commentator and ‘right’ presentation.

To sailing this rule applies as well. Some of my friends are saying “Oh, we absolutely cannot understand what are you doing there,” even if they are present at the venue itself. We need to show the audience how amazing sailing is! It provides a fantastic opportunity to feel how it is: to be a part of the team, to be a whole with the boat, sea, wind, and even with rivals, sailing around you!

Regattascope was tested this year on different competitions, such as the National Sailing League, Russian regattas in the Open800 class, Russian Championship in Olympic classes, international regattas in the Melges 20 and the Melges 20 World Championship. One of the main reasons Regattascope was created was the need of the Russian Sailing Federation to promote the National Sailing League. Once I was talking to Vladimir Silkin, president of RSF, about already existing products. “Let’s think and research, maybe there is something on the market we can use,” he said. “I think we can create something way better than what already exists” – I replied.

But it is very difficult since there are trackers like Trac Trac or Virtual Eye, a great and powerful tracker from SAP, which is used by the organizers of the Extreme Sailing Series.

Yes, it is difficult. I know this SAP product, I know Hasso Plattner, one of the founders of this company. Hasso is a sailor himself; that’s part of the reason why this tracker even exists. It is an amazing tracker, but there is one problem: it is not for the mass usage. One week of using SAP, equipment renting and software, costs approximately 100 000 euros. There are very few regattas in the world which can spend so much on tracking. I once told Hasso “I’ll make a product as functional as yours, but way cheaper.”

Trac Trac is great as well, but it is more of a universal tracker, not made explicitly for sailing.

Our product is dedicated specifically for sailing and people who understand this sport. We are planning to implement new options such as commenting and analyzing maneuvers according to the rules of yacht racing. To be honest, we wouldn’t even start developing our tracker if something like that had already existed. However, none of the trackers nowadays can fulfill yachtsmen requests for it.

The closest thing to the ideal, for both sailors and sailing enthusiasts, is the America’s Cup, but the costs of it are over the moon: they have several helicopters, a team of videographers, a lay line and tracking of yachts are hand-drawn. The prices are extremely high, and we want our product to be affordable for everyone.

A good, functional, affordable program for almost any level of regattas?

Yes. Then it will help promoting sailing as a sport because now most of the regattas both in Russia and in the world go unnoticed.

How much time passed between the appearance of this idea and the first implementation of the product?

Four months. Since then, the whole summer and autumn of 2016, the informational analytical system Regattascope has been tested, the design changed and new options were added. While building the core of our system we tested it on both professional athletes and sailing enthusiasts. I am very grateful to all of them, athletes, my friends, everyone who gave their comments about this tracker: it helped enormously.

A lot of people are using Regattascope already and this number will only grow. Do you like creating such useful things?

Of course! IT and sailing are two things I am interested in right now, and they are combined in Regattascope. I put a piece of my soul into it, and I truly hope that it will not only be useful, but also will help to promote our favorite sport. I hope it will move sailing at least half of step forward.


 


author: Lina Kholina


translated by: Anna Pankrashova