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  IT at Cowes
Posted by James Walton on Mon Apr 08, 17:40 [3745-12310]
Two suggestions about IT and Cowes Week

But first of all, thank you for all you and your team do to make this such a good annual holiday!

As each CW goes by, the software and presentation which underlie Cowes Week improves. The supreme sporting example of using IT is probably Wimbledon, but you guys donít do too badly. Itís great to get pics and results in the marina and elsewhere, it would be even better to get a big name using some analytics software to show how an individual course should have been sailed, with imaginary lay lines and so on. It would certainly be a lot better than listening to some no-hope band droning on - after all, itís not supposed to be a music festival!

Hereís a couple of suggestions to improve things if I may

Course information

The present distribution of courses is to all intents and purposes by text. This arrives at a busy time for navigators, who are at that time managing the starting sequence on board. Might it be possible to improve things by using an App that not only sends the course, but also plots it somehow?

Courses can come out quite late in the day [typically in the -10 to -5 minute range], we have to transcribe it from phone to something else, then try to figure out which side to put the pole and gear on, all in the last few minutes before the start Ė not ideal. Can we not skip the transcribe bit? On everything from a 1/4 tonner to a 50 footer, for 4 years I have used Boatie to navigate. It gives bearings to next mark, distance to next mark, type of mark to look for, a rudimentary COG and SOG, tides, almost everything we need except an overview of the whole course, and depth information, for which we turn to an Admiralty chart on an iPad. Sadly, Boatieís owners arenít very communicative or supportive, and right now I have to do my own annual updates, but it is a very useful App, maybe they would sell it to you for not much, and it could be re-branded and improved by Lendy? Speaking as navigator, Iíd love to have as a minimum, in one download, all of the marks, and all of their distances and bearings, as soon as the text or arrives. It canít be beyond the wit of NASAÖ😊

Channels of communication

I believe that there is a looming problem with multiple channels of communication. We have the SIís with flagged amendments, the Notice Board [on the CW website?], we have VHF, text, and on top of that we have the Lendy Cowes Week App. Last year, we received conflicting messages about the length of abandonments, and also about starting areas. The main conflict was between SMS and Lendy App, to the extent that as the week went by I decided to switch Lendy off, it wasnít up to date enough to be useful. I recommend that you make clear what your policy is in this area, and clearly communicate which channel we can Ďlegallyí rely on

Again, thanks for all you do, and if I can help in anyway with the above, just shout, [although despite the above Iím NOT a techie or a programmer!]

Kind regards

James Walton
  IT at Cowes
Posted by Laurence Mead on Tue Apr 30, 13:52 [3745-12324]
Hi James,

Thanks for your extremely comprehensive feedback report and I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you.

I'm pleased that you are broadly happy with the IT output at Cowes Week. We've always been very good at getting the results up quickly and the big screens are certainly much enjoyed.

Picking up your theme about analytics we had hoped to run a daily review session last year on the Parade but for a variety of reasons didn't pull it off. This year we are working with various Solent sailmakers to try to put on coaching evening's Monday through Thursday which I think will be very similar to what you have described. It would effectively review race strategies, sail trim and give people an opportunity to see how their race panned out against both the pre-race strategy and what turned out to be the actual winning strategy.

With regards to courses we did deliver on a lot of what you are suggesting last year through the Cowes Week App. When we now send the course the distance and bearings to all the marks come at the same time on the App.

We have discussed internally what information should be provided and looked at the additional data you suggest. However, there is a case for not even giving distance and bearing because we are effectively doing some of the sailors work for them, but in the end we felt that the app was a good place to make life a little easier for competitors by providing at least the basics (distance and bearing to next mark).

It would be very difficult for us to take that a stage further with COG data because it would be very specific to each type of boat and the state of the tide when they reach a particular part of the course. Tidal offsets are therefore something each boat still has to work out for themselves.

With regards to communications I hear you. There is a strong case for saying that we are in danger of having too many ways to communicate. I am almost sure that we will drop text messages next year. We had a very high percentage take up on the app this year but it does of course require a smart phone which not all competitors have or are willing to take on the water (try it in a Flying 15!).

Last year was also the first year that we tried a number of new initiatives, particularly postponing Monday racing on Sunday night because of the obvious no wind forecast. We probably didn't communicate that as clearly as we should have done on the app, partly because different start times on different start lines meant that there were different lengths of postponement in different places. We will try to do better this year.

On the Monday there were a couple of changes of starting areas and the facts on the ground we are probably changing faster than we kept up with them. Again something we need to do better on.

Happy to speak on the phone if the above doesn't answer your questions and really appreciate you taking the time to write.

Best regards ,

  IT at Cowes
Posted by James Walton on Thu Aug 01, 10:39 [3745-12440]
Thanks for your feedback. As the Great Day looms, and the App is maybe/maybe not available, presumably you will tell us which method of communication that you are using is official, and which is advisory.....and on that basis protestable against the Race Committee..... I'm in the midst of reading the NOR and SIs, not clear yet which prevails over the other..have I missed something? Maybe I've sailed with lawyers too often, and forgotten that this is a regatta not a Worlds!
Hope it all goes well
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