How information is changing the Volvo Ocean Race

Published on February 25th, 2015

Ocean racing today barely resembles what it had been in the past. Once the domain of independent thinking, now tactics are guided by routing software and regular position reports. Jack Lloyd, Race Director for the Volvo Ocean Race, shares what changes have been made for the 2014-15 edition…

Explain the position information being provided.

For the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race, the position reports to the boats, and the online tracker information for race fans, was both on a 4-hour interval. We always use update periods that divide equally into 24 hours, but there was some preference from the teams in the last race and some from this race to make the position reports less frequent.

The desire to have longer position report intervals would allow them to spend less time analyzing data and more time sailing, and for that longer period to give them more time undercover to execute a tactical change in direction or similar.

The quandary for us was that updating the online tracker could not be longer than a 4-hour interval, and preferably much less, so we opted for tracker updates to be every 3 hours, and provide the boats with position reports every 6 hours.

This differential between what the boat sees and what the fan sees does open the possibility of a sailing team being alerted of changes by someone off the boat with tracker access, but we are confident that this does not happen as we have a pretty tight control on messaging to and from the boats.

In the background we are trialing a combination of 10 and 30 second data collection which has been made possible through the FB250 technology and the one design telemetry package, and going forward we see more regular updates as a distinct possibility. The tracker updates do currently go live for the last period of each Leg but to go live for an entire Leg is not seen as something that is necessary but it perhaps less than the current rate of 3-hours intervals.

The use of AIS (Automatic Identification System) is new for this race. While the position reports now come to the boats less frequently, AIS can essentially provide real-time information.

AIS is now compulsory in many countries that we visit, or for countries in which we sail through their waters. As a result we have made the activating of AIS compulsory while racing.

The result of this is that teams that are close together (within approx. 8 miles) can monitor each other via AIS, which has added a new dimension to tactics. We see this as a positive rather than a negative, particularly since it fits within RRS 41 (Outside Help) and makes us compliant with the applicable government regulations.

Editor’s note: Team Alvimedica describes the use of AIS in this video.

Any changes in weather detail and routing support?

The weather package is a step forward of that presented in the past and all teams are very happy with what is provided and as we work with our supplier more features are being added and others enhanced. Regarding routing support, that is a team detail.

Race websiteTracking information

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