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SEPTEMBER 2006 - 'THE END OF BLACK FLAGS?' YACHTS & YACHTING

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September 2006 - An innovative new tracking system - called Traxu - was trialled in the Laser SB3 fleet at Skandia Cowes Week. So, with the position of every boat recorded online, does this mean the days of the general recall and black flag are numbered?

In the Cowes trial 25 boats were fitted with small devices (105g, the size of a phone) which transmitted their positions to a website in real time (see www.traxu.com). This year the tracking was used for information gathering only and not for rules enforcement

Mark Richards, Director of Traxu who provide the service commented ‘Cowes Combined Clubs are looking at using the service more extensively in the future, the aim of this particular trial being to evaluate the pros and cons for race management, starting and finishing, safety and sponsorship. It was opportune as there were 90 SB3s racing with multiple recalls and black flags and the fleet actually being sent home one day for poor start discipline.. all of which could potentially be avoided'

The largest on-line audience was on the Wednesday of Cowes with 15,000 people watching the race, over 20% of whom were in the US who must have been tuning in with their breakfast!

The wider audience is encouraging for the sport as a whole. Traxu have received enquiries from Americas Cup syndicates and the RYA through to Mums and Dads wanting to know where there children are on a Sunday. Some of the feedback from the Cowes is featured below:
 
Glenn Bourke, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race who was competing commented ‘the tracking was very well received. I was wondering why the productivity in the office was so poor until I found out that they were all watching the racing!’

Richard Langford, MD of Noble Marine Insurance Brokers said ‘I thought the tracking was brilliant, not only from the point of view that I could watch the tactics of the front guys from my desk, but also the implications for safety are vast. For example on the tuesday (see pic) I saw a boat come to an abrupt halt going downwind, pause for a couple of minutes and then make its way in a jagged fashion towards the island shore - turns out they had broken their rudder’. (Race replays of SB3s at Cowes are viewable on www.traxu.com)

Dave Cheyne, a GP in Northern Ireland who was unable to make Cowes this year, e-mailed ‘how frustrating not to be there! Watching the battle at the front was tantalising, with Glenn (Bourke) seeming to make ground uphill but Russell (Peters) always getting away downwind’

Jono Shelley from Scotland, who came second overall in PWC e-mailed ‘A big thank you from the northern contingent. Not only were all our mates glued to the screen but my Mum was happy as Dad locked himself away for 3 hours every day’

Clearly, there are lots of other possible applications and Traxu has received enquiries from everyone from America's Cup syndicates and the RYA to mums and dads wanting to know where their children are on a sunday. Traxu units are relatively inexpensive to rent - prices range from £50 for a boat doing a weekend coastal passage involving simple mapping and functionality, to £200 for international sailing regattas with live feeds for video, audio and sponsors
 
For more information see www.traxu.com