To Ping or Not to Ping

Published on June 14th, 2016

For competition that allows electronic assistance, traditional skills of getting a good start have seen how gadgetry features can help the bow find the line. But as US J/70 Class President Henry Brauer notes, the prevalence of these systems in his class has made him think of the next, better step…

I can’t help but reflect on the present state of our racing with the Race Committee giving us all extra time to set our instruments for each end of the line and watch as we all line up like a bunch of lemmings to set our instruments. During a recent regatta, we spent some of the down time on our boat (while we waited for the wind to settle down) to design a better starting system.

Our idea is probably not new or revolutionary, but I think it has merit and maybe with the power of the fastest growing one-design Class in the World we can try and move technology forward to help both competitors and our race management teams.

Our idea is simple—instead of each boat having a GPS instrument and “pinging” each end of the line before the start, each boat would be equipped with an electronic transmitter that would trip a signal controlled by the RC between the two ends of the line. Think of the electronic system used at major Tennis Championships.

The display on each boat would be able to provide the same information to the crew: distance from the starting line and as soon as the timer on the RC boat hit “0” the beam would detect boats over early, display this information for both the competitors on their boats as well as the RC.

I have no technical background to make this happen, but I have to believe that there are some very talented engineers in our fleet (and smart guys like Stan Honey in our sport) who might be able to develop this type of system. If we can create a system, we could beta test it at some regional events, work out the bugs and implement it for major championships.

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