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© 2017 Ian Watts

Sub-centimetre remote platform tracking solution for OCS / Start Line Infringement detection...

Race-Trax was written as a VB.net software solution, in the first instance, to configure, calibrate and test the ERDALL trackers. 

Once on-the-water tests began with the RYA it became apparent that GPRS (phone network) modems were neither fast nor reliable enough to assist race officers make quick and informed decisions, in real-time, during a race. The ERDALL trackers were, therefore, fitted with UHF modems. Specific software was also required to detect and display OCS boats and other relevant data the race officers, judges and umpires wanted to see real-time on the committee boats (live wind data, overlap information, mark rounding positions etc).

The resulting program or app, as they're now called ;) was (above and beyond system configuration) aimed specifically at displaying real-time data on the water - nothing else ! It was named Race-Trax.

Development takes time, lots of time... people changed at the RYA... and their requirements changed too. It became apparent that, whilst race officers could definitely benefit from real-time visual competitor, support boat (umpire) position and live wind data, the primary demand switched to become one based upon satisfying shore-side spectator viewing.

I was already fully committed and, although able to see various technical challenges and time issues, saw no reason why I couldn't do both. Shortly after, in an attempt to free up time, I took on a marketing partner which lasted 18 months or so. A data relay station was designed and built to send the data ashore and display it there. Then a pair of bespoke apps were written to accept data from the race-course and serve it, via the web 'Race-Server', to 'Race-Viewer', an app that could be downloaded from the EireTech website. To be fair, that worked pretty well (could have done with more development, of course) but the problem then became one of the race officers taking a dislike to their decisions being monitored and verified shore-side. And, with the benefit of Race-Viewer's post-race replay feature, they often came ashore to face some sort of post-race 'debate' on their decision making process...

Needless to say, two hitherto unforeseen consequences soon became very apparent : support from race officers faltered and the Race-Viewer solution became a threat to other companies supplying web-based tracking solutions with off-the-shelf GPRS based trackers meaning that the potential of the super-accurate ERDALL tracker was diminished through its association with Race-Viewer.

 

My forte had been the hardware design and build of highly accurate, real-time trackers and delivering the data to a control room or committee boat... as was successfully delivered through the Nav-Trax (military) program and, in partnership with the RYA and BeTomorrow, at the 2010 and 2011 Sail for Gold pre-olympic regattas where the ERDALL units, via Race-Trax, provided the data to BeTomorrow's 3D graphics engine... Great results but a rather expensive every-day solution...

The worsening economic crisis of 2008 most definitely didn't help... and by 2012 I'd pretty much finished with yacht tracking and was using the ERDALL units to data log... weather etc... a small task for ERDALL which was, obviously too expensive a solution to 'just' data log...

I bought back the 100-odd trackers I'd sold and now have 200-odd units in my office... Oops !!! 

They're currently put to good use, on a time-to-time basis, to accurately lay and retrieve lobster pots, track my canoeing / coasteering adventures and other similar work for the local yacht club and their Optimists / 570 training ...

On the up-side, I had a lot of fun, I learned a huge amount and we made a ton of new friends at Weymouth and other racing venues around the world !