Ever get the feeling that the casual post-race conversation doesn’t tell the whole story about race performance? Ever wished you had solid data to focus your improvement plan? Race analysis may be part of the solution. In this article we review the benefits and costs of race analysis and recommend a tool for sailing schools, smaller yacht clubs, and amateur fleets.
Race Analysis – Worth the Effort and Cost
Few yacht clubs or sailing schools have made a sustained effort to reap the benefits of race analysis. Companies like Kattack and RaceQs have started up but are not growing. Does this mean that the benefits aren’t worth the effort and cost? We believe the benefits of race analysis ARE worth the effort and cost for anyone moderately serious about improvement.
Clearly, race analysis data is valuable, since Olympic sailors use it regularly in training. With raw data alone, you can compare distance sailed, boat speed, velocity made good (VMG), and sailing angles. With a little further analysis, you can evaluate boat handling and strategy, including starting performance, tacking efficiency, time on the lifted tack, and time spent sailing in more breeze. Imagine the benefit of knowing how your tacks measure up to others or how much less distance the race winner sailed.
Effort and Cost
We shy away from many tasks because we think they will be too hard. You can’t do race analysis without some effort, but the effort is manageable. The key is to use a central support person, who can develop an efficient process to collect and analyze the data. While not free, the cost for our recommended race analysis tool is quite reasonable. With the right choices, we think many organizations will find the benefits are well worth the effort and cost.
Race Analysis Tools
We found nine online services that host your GPS tracks, display the race, and crunch data for post-race analysis. We did not include on-board devices or apps for use during the race. We then narrowed the list based on the following criteria:
- Cost. We looked for low-cost or free tools suitable for local sailing schools, smaller yacht clubs, or amateur fleets.
- Capability. We looked for tools that provide enough data to be useful, including boat speed, VMG, distance sailed, and headings for each boat throughout the race.
- Viability. Since many tools spring up and then wither away, we looked for current users and technical support, as evidenced by recent races posted and recent software updates.
- TackTracker. Australian company with nine years of history and a currently-active customer base with U.S. clients. The application is geared to support individual sailors, coaches, and clubs running regattas. Good capability and relatively low cost. This is our recommended service for local sailing schools, smaller yacht clubs, or amateur fleets.
- SAP Sailing Analytics. International company supporting large events. Capability id high. Cost is likely to be prohibitive for small organizations.
- RaceQs. Silicon Valley company with several years of history. High level of capability and low cost. However, there are very few recent races posted and the website’s forum has many requests for support that appear to have gone unanswered.
- Kattack Minnesota company with 11 years of history. Capability adequate, although race reports can’t be downloaded. Its current user base has only three organizations uploading races in 2018. Last update to app was in 2015. Cost is relatively high.
- I-Sail. Netherlands company, with mostly Dutch users. Appears to be slightly lower quality than other sites.
- Map My Tracks. Supports a variety of sports. Recent sailing events are all overseas. Could not view race replays.
- GeoRacing. Supports a variety of sports. Focused on displays for events and does not appear to support analysis. Primarily used overseas. Cost is likely to be high.
- TracTrac. Has capability and is current. Primarily used overseas, with limited U.S. users. Appears to have been tried by U.S. Sailing Team in 2015-2016, with no recent use by them. Race replays would not load to our computer. Cost is likely to be high.
- SailRacer. Has capability and is current, but is primarily used in the UK and focuses on the larger goals of helping clubs manage events.
Tack Tracker Review
Based on our criteria, we believe that TackTracker (TT) is the best service for local sailing schools, smaller yacht clubs, or amateur fleets.
TT accepts tracks from GPS data loggers, live GPS trackers (with SIM cards), and smartphones. The web or PC player displays the tracks with plenty of data, viewable in chart form or downloadable reports. The tool is easy to use, allowing a designated manager perform all functions. Cost is not free, but reasonable, especially using data loggers.
If you don’t need live tracking and don’t mind uploading the GPS tracks manually, this is the least expensive way to go. Using loggers makes it easy for the sailors, avoids using personal cell phones, and eliminates any questions about improper use of displays during races. Battery life is advertised at 40 hours. Drawbacks are initial cost and some hands-on involvement by the organizer to assign identification to each tracker, recover the devices following racing, and manually upload data.
TT supports GPS trackers that upload data automatically using a SIM card and data plan. Live trackers eliminate manual uploading and allow users to view races live in the cloud. Battery life is advertised at about 20 hours.
TT supports Android and iOS smartphones with a free app. The phone user can delegate management of the tracking for account and race setup. Smartphones reduce initial cost, require less hands-on management, and allow you to view races and data live in the cloud. However, battery life may be an issue for longer events, along with concern about using personal phones and possible misuse of displays during races.
- TT provides the following data for each leg and each tack sailed during the leg:
- Distance sailed
- Speed over ground (avg, max, min)
- Deviation from course bearing on each tack
- VMG to course and wind
- Number of tacks
- TT reports include all the analytical data in both table and chart format. Chart format is useful for comparing time and speed loss during tacks. Reports can be downloaded to spreadsheets for further analysis and dissemination.
Ease of use
To track races a manager performs the following tasks. A current TT user reports that these tasks are not difficult or time-consuming.
- Tracker setup: One-time task to input sailor name and other simple information.
- Tracker start: Done by manager before going on the water or delegated to the sailor.
- Upload tracks: Manager or assistant uploads logger data manually following racing. Live tracker and smartphone upload data automatically.
- Race analysis: Reports and charts are easy to obtain and manipulate in spreadsheets.
Organizing, viewing and sharing data
The TT cloud allows you to manage your races and view races from other users. Functions include:
- Watch online races published by you or others
- Watch live track in the web player
- Set up and manage a home page
- Manage who can watch your races
Users can view races by the following methods, without an account or password.
- View live locally, via a PC using the TT software. This requires that the sailors use live trackers or smart phones with internet connections.
- View recorded races on the cloud or directly from a PC. The cloud player requires no software installation. The PC player or mobile device players use a free download and provide more sophisticated analytics.
TT also offers a club regatta license to manage and display races during regattas.
TT has nine years of history and a large current user base with U.S. clients. TT made software updates in 2018.
- Logger purchase per unit (one time) – $130, pouch $7 through TT. Also available from other suppliers.
- Logged tracking license for manager (one time) – $70
- Race reports license for manager (one time) – $55
- Live tracker purchase per unit (one-time) – $210 from TT ($120-$135 from Amazon), SIM card – $10, pouch $7
- Tracker license per unit (one year) – $36. TT will provide a one-year license for each unit with the purchase of the MT90G tracker.
- Data plan per unit (monthly) – $6-$20. Purchase separately through a wireless carrier.
- Smartphone as tracker – must purchase tracker rights at $36/year per phone unit.