Where does the line get drawn on cost?

Published on April 18th, 2023

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
Hall of Famer Dennis Conner, Olympic medalist, 2-time Star World Champion, and 3-time America’s Cup winner, was a master at starting. His chief skill at starting was his almost flawless sense of time and distance.

“We make bets on it all the time,” said tactician Tom Whidden during the 1987 Cup. “How far will the boat go in 10 seconds? How many boat lengths in a minute? How long to the mark? We bet $1 on anything we can think of, anytime we can.”

When I sailed with Dennis in a Beer Can Race, I’d notice the discomfort on other boats as he would closely pass them – perhaps an internal game to remain sharp at his remarkable skill… a skill now anybody can purchase.

The permissibility of GPS-based ­starting devices display the time and distance to the startline, which has both leveled the playing field and increased the cost to compete. The only downside to the system is the need for each boat to input (‘ping’) the ends of the start line.

But now, like the drug dealer that raises prices after you get hooked, new technology has come along to solve the downside… for more money. While this may be a necessary evil for high speed classes, where does the line get drawn? Here’s a report from Sailing World magazine:

Ask any mark-boat volunteer what irks them most about setting a start pin for a class that allows GPS-based ­starting devices and chances are the response you’ll get is: “The pinging chaos.” What a pain it is to stream or reset tackle while crews swarm like flies, yelling and banging into each other.

Pinging is a modern annoyance for everyone, but the engineers at Vakaros, makers of starting devices that contributed to the problem in the first place, have finally rolled out a solution that could put an end to it.

With its new Atlas2 units flying off the shelf and the companion race-management software getting into the hands of PROs, Vakaros says the stresses of getting—and delivering—a good and fair start are fast becoming a thing of the past. Race committees and marshmallows rejoice.

“[RaceSense] is something we’ve been talking about for a long time, and we’re now at a place where we have the technology ready and the bandwidth to focus on it,” says Vakaros co-founder Jake Keilman. “We’re going from it being something possible to something that will become very common.” – Full report

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