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Sailing better with analytics

Nurdianah Md Nur | Feb. 6, 2015
SAP provides sailors competing at the Extreme Sailing Series with post-race insights to enable them to optimise their strategy for the future races.

SAP Extreme Sailing 
SAP Extreme Sailing Team. Credit: SAP

In sports, each move taken by players contributes to the end result, which is either a win or loss.  With this understanding, many sportspeople and teams are now leveraging technology to maximise their chances of winning.

One sport that capitalises on technology for optimal performance is sailing. Even though tech tools are not allowed to be used during each race of the Extreme Sailing Series (ESS) — an annual global sailboat racing series — they can be used to collect data and provide post-race analysis.

Data is collected from the sensors and global positioning system (GPS) trackers on the catamarans, and analysed by tools from SAP, the official technical partner of the event since 2012, in near real-time. The analysed data will be presented as 3D visualisations and on a live leaderboard, which displays key statistics including average speeds, distance travelled, and gaps to leaders. These insights enable competing teams to analyse their performance and optimise their strategy to help them sail better in the next races.   

Teams looking for more detailed insights can refer to post-race automated reports that are generated by the SAP BusinessObjects Explorer software and SAP Crystal Reports, said Stefan Lacher, head of sponsorship technology of SAP global marketing, in an interview. He explained that these reports can be tailored to individual requirement, with the ability to break down the complex data sets to supply an overview of a specific team, an Act, a day or even a race. Sailors can also use the SAP BusinessObjects Explorer to ask what-if questions to learn how they can best handle hypothetical scenarios, he added.

Since wind is an important factor to sailing, SAP is deploying wind buoys on each race course of this year's ESS to measure the wind at different points on the course, leading to more accurate wind field computation. These wind computations can be used together with other data collected from the catamarans to enable teams to identify optimal tracks and address possible shortcomings, said Lacher.  "The use of wind buoys to provide enhanced race data and improved live leaderboard will provide an enhanced experience for all," commented Andy Tourell, ESS' project director.

Singapore-specific tech challenges
When asked about the tech challenges that SAP faces when providing information for sailors in the Singapore Act, Lacher replied that the high buildings in the republic might sometimes interfere with GPS signals. "Even though we're on the ultra high frequency (UHF) spectrum, once the satellite is blocked by a skyscraper, the GPS signal will be weak," said Lacher. The GPS trackers are thus affixed with SIM cards so that when the signal is weak , the trackers can switch to a GSM network as backup.


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