I have been doing a lot of work recently helping to develop the innovative TracAce™ system with Sailing Southwest. Whilst a lot of people can easily see the advantages, a few people are less familiar with this sort of technology and have asked me why TracAce™ would improve a race or event. In this article, I will talk about why you should use TracAce™ to enhance dinghy racing. Next month, I will examine why you would use it for training.
Unfortunately, GPS technology is not accurate enough to determine whether someone is over the start line or not. This is down to the GPS service itself which is owned and run by the United States Government. However, TracAce™ is still extremely useful at the start as it can be used to determine the sail number of a boat identified as OCS. As an example, imagine that there is one boat over at the pin end and you know the first two digits of her sail number are ‘62’. A quick look at TracAce™ and you can see only two boats in the vicinity with numbers starting ‘62’ – one a long way from the line.
TracAce™ is also useful at the start for determining what boats have actually started. This is useful for working out whether to score sailors as DNS. Furthermore, it is necessary to track who has started after a general recall on a Black flag as those who were scored BFD cannot start again or they will be scored DNE.
During the race
Where TracAce™ really comes into it’s own is for tracking the race from the Committee Boat. Race Officers can use the system to monitor the split on the beat, the run and at gates. They can also check to see if the fleet are experiencing a wind shift elsewhere on the course and of course it can be used to check the approximate order of the fleet all of the time. It can also be used to see which boats are retiring so that they can be recorded correctly.
At the finish
As previously mentioned, GPS tracking may not be accurate enough to determine an exact order for fleet racing at the finish but, like at the start, is useful as another tool to determine approximate positioning, and check sail numbers that may be hard to read. It is also useful to see which boats have actually finished. For club handicap racing where the Race Officers may be less experienced, timings taken from TracAce™ may actually be more accurate than those taken on the water. Where TracAce™ becomes really useful is for the finish of pursuit races where it is far and away the most accurate way to determine the final positions at the gun.
TracAce™ massively improves safety as the Race Management can monitor the location of every boat whilst afloat. One can also monitor the system and identify boats that appear to be doing something unusual, or perhaps have been stationary for a while. Of course, TracAce™ enables safety boats to navigate effectively to any boats identified to be in distress. Finally on a safety front, TracAce™ acts as a dynamic tally system in that, in comparison to traditional tallies, those not returned at the end of the day can be located to ensure that they are not still afloat.
TracAce™ can be used to enhance the experience for spectators without having to compromise the quality of the racing by moving it closer inshore. Friends or family can watch the racing unfold from a screen setup ashore, or online on their own devices from anywhere in the world. This is particularly desirable for junior and youth fleets to allow parents to monitor how their child is getting on.
TracAce™ is an invaluable tool for sailors to enable them to review their race. I will talk more specifically about how to use TracAce™ to analyse performance next month.
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