How Technology Impacts Race Management

Published on August 20th, 2015

As modern technology enhances how the sport is shared and followed by fans, these changes are also impacting the race management and judging for offshore and oceanic races. David Brunskill, who is an International Judge and chairman of the ISAF working party which is involved with oceanic and offshore judging issues, provides an update…


When boats go offshore nowadays everybody knows where they are, what they are doing and when, either through AIS, race trackers, or other technology.

At the first hint of a safety issue, race management problem, or breach of rules, the race management team and/or the protest committee will be bombarded with phone calls, texts, and emails from concerned families, friends, supporters, press and TV seeking instant answers.

Once upon a time, after the start, the race team and protest committee could wave each other goodbye and make leisurely arrangements to meet at the finishing line. However, now their roles are 24/7, and this impacts on the way we work.

Safety calls may require boats to be diverted to give assistance to others in a race. Weather patterns may suggest course changes, moving virtual marks or weather gates. Piracy or conflict risks may require races to be re-routed. When Sailing Instructions allow, a rules breach or a redress request may need protest hearings to be held and decisions made whilst boats are racing. Time Penalties may be imposed, requiring boats to delay and re-pass a waypoint – all this requiring real time management by the race team and protest committee.

This necessitates new approaches to race management and to the rules for offshore and oceanic sailors. These issues are being addressed. A new chapter “P” on judging oceanic and offshore sailing has been included in the International Judges manual – freely available via the ISAF website. The ISAF working party is now examining whether and how to introduce an experimental rules appendix for offshore and oceanic racing. Similar changes are planned for the race management manual.

It is never easy to introduce change or to immediately find the best solutions when technology impacts on our sport. However, just as the sport is developing, so is the structure to sustain it.

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