The Problem. And the Solution

The problem, the snag, the challenge, call it what you will, was that, when seen from ashore, there was too much delay between the end of a race and its results being published. Tapping in 8 finishers per minute on a tablet is easily achievable. That means that a 40 boat fleet should take no more than about 5 minutes as opposed to the 20 or more observed. Where was the rest of the time going?

To investigate I went afloat for two days on the finish boat for the Laser Radial and 420 course of the RYA ISAF Youth Selection Event.

On the first of those days we were four on board – one calling out (and taping) sail numbers, two recording on paper and me wielding the tablet. I found it entirely possible to type in 420s as the caller sang out the numbers – full sail numbers were fine but bow numbers were even better! Not so with the Radials. The leaders were OK but when the peloton came through you just can’t type that quickly and accurately. The technique is to leave an adequate gap and fill in the missing lines as the recorders compare their sheets.

On the second day we were down to three so I recorded on paper and subsequently transcribed into the tablet.

In this way we achieved an average time of 12mins 58 secs from the time of the last finisher to data sent to Sailwave. The best was 3:48 for the 16 420s and the longest was 20:30 for over 30 Radials. Add 30 seconds to these for Sailwave to generate results and publish them on the web gives a publication time of less than 5 minutes to little more than 20.

These times include cross-checking the paper finish sheets, photographing and emailing them ashore, texting ashore to say the photos are on their way (minutes can be saved by omitting the photography!), data entry and validity checking. The crucial point that became clear is that variations in the time did not relate to the data entry phase but were essentially down to how long it took to reconcile the finish sheets. Time ticks away rapidly and even more rapidly if you need to consult the tape. In contrast the time taken to enter data and transmit is predictable and more or less constant for a given fleet.

What this means is that the time from last finisher to results publication will vary but that variation happens regardless of the approach to results calculation and publication. And that in turn means that the quickest method of results calculation and publication is always going to provide the fastest possible results service.

Interestingly times were noticeably quicker on the second day when we were down to three on board. Not because the fourth person had been a hindrance – far from it – but because the Race Officer put more separation between the fleets so that we could deal with them one at time and thereby average 10:12 for 3 races.

But there is a bit more to it than that. I asked one of the recorders to do the data entry for one race. She did so perfectly competently but showed no interest in doing so again. From this and other observations I conclude that, for SailEvent to achieve its full potential, you need someone on the finish line committed to making it happen. Someone who takes ownership of the task and says “I’m going to make sure that results are published in record time”.

Like any tool, it takes time and practise to become proficient at using the Race Team App. Not a lot of time, perhaps an hour or two, but practise ashore pays dividends. With a proficient and focused operator SailEvent can publish race results remarkably quickly.