Thursday, August 20, 2009

Regatta tech

How is the technology at the events you participate in? Here is how it is getting done at the RS:X World Windsurfing Championship to be held later this month at Weymouth, England:

Each of the 4 marks on the course will have a Race Committee boat in attendance, where there will be a GPRS enabled mobile phone loaded with custom Java software. Each time a board passes their mark, they tap in the seeding number and 10 seconds later that rider’s name and sail number appear on the dedicated web page on the RS:X Worlds site. Results for each race come up in the same way.

To follow a particular rider (or riders), you just go to the results page and sign up for an alert. You can choose whether to get the data sent to your mobile or your email address. In fact, all the athletes and coaches who have provided their mobile number will also get an SMS when an official notice is posted. The On Line notice board will mirror the information posted on the board at the venue for any changes to Sailing Instructions, the proposed racing schedule for the next day, etc.

While the armchair spectator will be able to follow every twist and turn of the championship, how long will it be until this information is on the water with each competitor? Will we soon see the iPhone as required sailing equipment to provide tide, wind speed, and competitor placing? Yikes!

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At 2:08 AM, Anonymous RS:X World Windsurfing Championships said...

As you can imagine, windsurfers are fully occupied when racing as are our fellow sit down sailors in dinghies. They certainly do not have time to analyse tidal stream, wind and weather data as offshore sailors are already able to do.

However, to be able to play back a race which we can do with the LIVE tracking data and have access to mark rounding times helps competitors analyze their racing.

It also allows juries base decisions on facts previously unavailable.

Our system gives almost LIVE data to the public and media wherever they may be in the world. The racing becomes instantly more interesting to everyone especially combined with on the water commentary.

In fact, 50,000 unique visitors to our championship website are expected. When they get there, they will find links to images, videos, blogs and reports not to mention Twitter.

At 11:42 AM, Anonymous Mike Levesque said...

This is long overdue, and only partway there. The next step that we need is chips on the boats so there is no need for the manual entry.
For many, many years now, we have been doing "live" updates on the web for major Hobie Cat regattas (Worlds, NAs, etc.). These updates include mark rounding order of the top boats, finishes, weather updates, etc. These are typically text blogs, and require a dedicated resource (volunteer) to upload this information (these are week-long events).
At the Hobie Cat 16 Worlds in Mexico several in 2004, it was reported that we were getting over 100,000 hits.
To not take advantage of this free exposure would really be sad.
As the previous poster mentioned, this would certainly help juries, which in the long run helps everyone. As a PRO, I know that having mark boats manually record roundings, while important, is difficult at best for large (60+ boat) fleets, particularly at gates. Add in some capsizes, Charlie flags, etc. and it becomes nearly or actually impossible.
Having said all of that, I don't see the need to add electronics for the sailors to use as mentioned in the original post. This is simply a means to help the OA provide to a greater audience without impacting the actual sailing.

At 12:01 AM, Anonymous rory ramsden said...

To provide up to 200 chips which we would need, costs money.
We are focused on providing a system that costs almost nothing to install and use.
And so delivers the maximum number of bangs for the sponsors' bucks.
Rounding orders/results are given for the whole fleet. There is no waiting for some proprietary system to spit results out in the traditional way.
One day and it is not too far off, regattas will be run without a scrap of paper being printed or posted.
The 3G generation will expect it and find it odd that people questioned its use


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