Regatta Systems Preparing for Summer Olympics

Published on January 25th, 2016

As part of the Olympic family, World Sailing must consider how its events will synch with others at the Summer Games. For regatta services, the Sailing World Cup events have been working with Swiss Timing, which is the event management system to be used by all sports at the Rio 2016 Games. Antonio Gonzalez de la Madrid, World Sailing World Cup Manager, shares some insight into the system being used at Sailing World Cup Miami…

We are already using this system for all the Sailing World Cup events, which is giving us a good opportunity to test it and implement changes needed for sailing. This system was used at the 2012 Games and we recognized that it was not perfectly adapted for the challenges of sailing events. Now, having this consistent system at the Sailing World Cup, it is also giving good practice for the race officials as many of them will also be at the Games in Rio.

The features of the system are two part. Part one is providing regatta services such as results, jury notices, rule 42 hearings, notices to competitors, etc. All this occurs within the Swiss Timing system and integrates nicely with the regatta website. The other part is the actual tracking, which can provide both 2-D and 3-D graphics display on the website.

The tracking features is important as it allows fans to follow the regatta, but also will be used to integrate into the video broadcast of the racing. Now that the Sailing World Cup events will have live broadcast of the Medal Races, we can start utilizing this tool in the production. This will offer a view similar to a helicopter without the expense and difficulty. Used together with the cameras, it will greatly enhance the viewer’s understanding of what is occurring in the race.

The system relies on radio frequency, not GPS, and works though a system of units on the racing boats along with all the course marks and the committee boat. This data helps to create the graphics and the positioning of the competitors. We hope to soon be able to integrate weather data too.

What the system is not yet being used for is determining which boats start fairly. We are also not yet relying on it for finishing, though it does provide a provisional finishing order, and may be used internally to clarify or confirm the information from the line spotters. We do see using the system for starting and finishing in the future. The technology is there, and the sailors want this, but for now these features are all quite expensive.

During the Sailing World Cup Miami, with so many boats, over 100 in the Laser class, we can only use the system on a limited level. This is the only Sailing World Cup event where entry is not restricted; typically fleet size has a maximum of 40 boats. But we will use the system as best we can to prepare for its full use on Saturday when the ten Olympic events have their final Medal Races.

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