Oct 31, 2018
This is the latest in a series of “Where are they now?” features on members of the Yale Athletics family.
by Brita Belli
Stan Honey (’78 B.S.) knew Yale’s reputation for sailing greatness before he ever set foot on campus. He’d grown up in southern California, sailing dinghies since he was 7 years old, and raced yachts by the time he reached high school. But Honey says collegiate racing wasn’t of the same caliber on the West Coast at that time. “Yale was highly revered in competitive sailing,” Honey says. “I wanted to go into the heart of the beast.”
At 63 years old, Honey is still racing on the world circuit, most recently as a navigator for the 100-foot Comanche in Australia’s Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race from Sydney Harbor to Queensland, and has been sailing full-time since 2004. He navigated the 105-foot trimaran that set the world record for fastest non-stop circumnavigation of the globe in 2010 (49 days, 7 hours, and 44 minutes), navigated the winning boat in the 2006-2007 Volvo Ocean Race, and has won numerous Transpacific Yacht Race (Transpac) races as a navigator and singlehanded sailor. He has navigated race boats for Nolan Bushnell, Steve Fossett, Richard Branson, Larry Ellison, Jim Clark, and Roy Disney.
“Sailing is a sport you can pursue your entire life,” Honey says. “It’s engrossing; the mind moves out of your body and hovers above the water, giving you a great understanding of the race.” Sailing is also, Honey says, where he developed a lifelong interest in navigation, an interest that would lead directly to his career success in developing automotive navigation systems and augmented reality technology for sports.
A new way to watch sports
After Yale, Honey worked for the Stanford Research Institute on remote sensing and was called to navigate a racing yacht for Bushnell, cofounder of Atari, in the 1983 Transpac. At Bushnell’s request, Honey and Ken Milnes, an SRI colleague, developed a pre-GPS computerized navigation system to assist in selecting the fastest course during the race. Bushnell and Honey discussed how the technology — relying on map matching — could be utilized for vehicles on land, and the startup ETAK was born.
Honey studied engineering at Yale and had been interested in navigation since he was a teenage sailor relying on the stars to guide him. “As I went to Yale, and got stronger technically, technology became an advantage in my navigational work,” Honey says. “I could fix things, write my own algorithms, and was pre-disposed to take an analytical approach.” He credits Yale with giving him a diverse skillset. “As a Yale undergraduate, I developed a solid technical foundation, but I was also able to think analytically and write and speak well — those were enormous advantages in both my sailing and technical career.”
After selling ETAK to the media company News Corporation, Honey began exploring how technology could be used to render an image in live video. He spoke with David Hill, who was about to launch FOX Sports, and had a contract with the National Hockey League. With Honey’s technology, they began showing games with a glowing blue puck and red trail illuminating its path. “It was not well received,” Honey says. But Honey used those patents and technology to cofound a new company, Sportvision, that would develop similar augmented reality enhancements for other televised sports. The next innovation, the yellow first-down line for NFL games, was a huge hit; tracking baseball strike-zone locations and adding visual pointers for NASCAR races soon followed.
In 2010, Honey’s passion for sailing and inventing came together when he led the development of a boat-tracking system known as the “LiveLine” for the America’s Cup race, which adds metrics like ahead-behind distance between boats, race placement, wind-direction, laylines, boundaries, and speed. In all, Honey is listed as an inventor on 30 patents in navigation and graphics.
Sailing skills = life skills
Honey says that sailing for Yale gave him key management skills. At that time, the undergraduates ran Yale’s sailing team without a full-time coach or staff. They oversaw the team’s budget — hiring well-known sailors to periodically coach or speak. They also ran the Yale Corinthian Yacht Club in Branford, planning daily programs and maintaining the facility and the fleet. “It was a big job for undergraduates, but we got a lot out of it,” Honey says. “We had to rise to the task and make decisions about fixing the boats, maintaining the chaseboats and docks, managing the team, running the day sailing program, and deciding when it was too windy to sail.” Honey and teammates and friends Peter Isler ’78 B.A. and Steve Benjamin ’82 B.A. took turns being the team commodore, which allowed them to live for three years at the yacht club. Yale’s sailing team was first in the nation during Honey, Isler, and Benjamin’s four undergraduate years.
Honey is currently nursing a hamstring injury from his last race, but says he’s eager to compete again — a passion he shares with his wife, Sally Lindsay Honey, a sailing legend in her own right who has twice been named U.S. Yachtswoman of the Year.