Please select your home edition
InSunSport - International - RG

Transpac announces six-Hour Tracking delay - might other races?

by Kimball Livingston on 29 Jun 2011
Transpacific Yacht Race .
Transpacific Yacht Race 2011: Inside Transpac, one of the lively conversations of 2011 has centered on position-reporting delays, pro or con. The decision now made to have a six hour delay may cause other long races to consider a similar cause of action, for just the same reason.

Given new transponder technologies and the capability at last of real-time reporting at minimal cost, you might think it's a no-brainer to report real-time. However, no less a voice than Stan Honey made a case for the hefty six-hour delay  - even longer than the four-hour delay of 2009 - which after long consideration is now announced as policy for 2011.
That is, transponder-based position reporting will be delayed six hours until the first monohull comes within 100 miles of the finish line at Diamond Head, at which time reporting for the entire fleet goes real-time.  
Stick with us, and we'll explain.  
He's quoted below, but for the record, Transpacific Yacht Club board member Stan Honey has navigated race wins worldwide, holds the current round-the-world record as navigator, and is the Rolex US Yachtsman of the Year. He also has navigated 22 transpacific races, winning 11 of them, including three course records. 

He is fully versed in the Transpac conundrum, which goes like this:  With the calms of the Pacific High Pressure Zone blocking the direct route from Los Angeles to Honolulu, the Transpac navigator is forced to 1) analyze present weather patterns; 2) anticipate coming changes dictated by the movement of the High; 3) make some bets as to the best way to skirt around the High, adding miles (but not too many miles) in the process. 

It was argued that real-time position reporting and constant awareness of opponents' moves would make the navigator's job more tactical than strategic. And with the unsettled weather of 2011, there's not much chance that the strategic outlook will be as simple and classic as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's  thirty-year average pictured here.
[Sorry, this content could not be displayed]Giving the floor to Stan:  
'Racing around a High is one of the most difficult and treacherous challenges for an offshore navigator. It's hard because, when rounding a High, you have to pick your 'lane' early, and if you get it wrong, you're toast. Navigators who succeed at the Transpac become sought after worldwide because the ocean racing community understands how important and how hard it is to get it right.

Consider Mark Rudiger, Ben Mitchell, John Jourdane, Skip Allan, all of whom navigated internationally after honing their skills at Transpac. Look at the Volvo Ocean Race. The first leg runs south through the Atlantic and requires rounding two Highs, North Atlantic and South Atlantic.

The winner of the first leg of the VOR always wins overall, the only sort-of exception being Chris Dickson, with Mark Rudiger navigating, in 1993-94. They won the first leg and were unbeatable on the final leg, until they beat themselves by losing their mast.

[Regarding reporting: The most-recent VOR provided near-instant updates to navigators, but only at six-hour intervals, with a once-per-leg stealth-mode option.]
'With real-time reporting throughout a Transpac, the fastest boat in any group of boats with nearly level ratings would always win by covering,' Honey said. 'The navigational intrigue, challenge and tradition of the Transpac would be lost.  For me, the Transpac races that I'm most proud of are the ones in which I won class or first to finish in a slower boat. Think Drifter '79, Charley '83, Pyewacket '99. Transpac is among the most difficult navigational challenges in any of the premier transoceanic races.'
It is worth noting that Stan Honey is not racing this year - he is too caught up as technical director of America's Cup 34 - so he has no vested interest beyond his opinion of the well-being of Transpac 2011.
Separately considered, there is the approach to Honolulu, where a hard-working shoreside committee is waiting. The better those folks can anticipate arrivals, the easier the task and the better the outcomes. Family and friends also want to know about arrivals at Diamond Head and dockside.

Thus decision number two:  The six-hour tracking delay ends when the first monohull comes within 100 miles of the finish. Reporting for all boats then switches to real time. People waiting ashore will know what they need to know, and by that point in the race, every navigator's strategic commitments will have been made.
'The Transpac has a long history as a race in which navigation matters,' Honey said. 'Using a six-hour delay for the first part of the Transpac recognizes and honors that history. Switching to real-time reports as the first monohull crosses the mark of 100 miles to the finish makes logistics easier for family members and for Honolulu committee members. It will add to the excitement of the finish.  It's the right compromise.'
There is one more point to add. Transpac 2011 continues the tradition of having a communications vessel accompany the fleet and conduct daily roll call. That will be the ex-Whitbread Race winner, Alaska Eagle, which has been doing the deal since 1983 and may be singing its swan song in 2011. All yachts are required to report their 0600 positions before 0700 via email, or by SSB after 0700. Alaska Eagle will aim to report back to the fleet before 0800, giving each navigator a once-daily view of the fleet that is less than two hours old, just as in the days of yore, when the tools were a sextant, the moon and stars.   
And a final-final point. The Transatlantic Race now under way, Newport, R.I. to The Lizard, employs real-time tracking, with a threat of severe penalties for turning off a transponder. On both the Right Coast and the Left Coast, one is likely to hear the phrases 'video game' and 'instant gratification' attached to real-time reporting. Sometimes in a positive sense. Sometimes in a negative sense.

The board members of the Transpacific Yacht Club weighed their choices carefully, along with input from the likes of yacht designer Alan Andrews, a good friend of Stan Honey, but a man who chooses a different point of emphasis. He points out that only a few sailors have the opportunity to sail with the top navigators.

Focusing the game on those top navigators might not well-serve the greatest number of participants, he said: 'Many people find themselves on a boat that misses a few shifts and is pretty far behind early in the race with a long way to go.

You could argue that a more moderate delay, three hours, for example, still provides an edge to a skilled navigator, but it could provide a better Transpac experience for crews in the lower part of the fleet, even if their navigators end up blindly following from three hours behind, not taking full advantage of the shifts.'

Transpacific Yacht Race website
Barz Optics - Kids rangeupffront 660x82Colligo Marine 660x82

Related Articles

Gladwell's Line -The America's Cup settlement deal
The 'News' today that Emirates Team New Zealand has won their case before the Arbitration Panel is not news The 'News' today that Emirates Team New Zealand has won their case before the America's Cup Arbitration Panel is not new - Sail-World reported the same story in the first and second weeks of September. The Hearing on the amount of compensation to be paid is yet to be held. So far we have been unable to discover a date if indeed one has been set. Maybe next year?
Posted on 11 Oct
Debriefing the 2016 J/70 Worlds with Winning Skipper Joel Ronning
I talked with Joel Ronning after the 2016 Alcatel J/70 Worlds to learn about his team’s win at this high-level regatta. Since its inception in 2012, the J/70 has become the most popular One Design boat in decades, with 1,100+ boats sailing in myriad countries. Some 68 boats from 15 countries arrived on San Francisco Bay last week to determine bragging rights at the 2016 Alcatel J/70 Worlds. I caught up with Joel Ronning to learn more about the Catapult team’s road to becoming the 2016 J/70 World Champions.
Posted on 5 Oct
Rio 2016 - America's Cup champ says Paralympic racing is closest ever
Twice America’s Cup champion, Rick Dodson is extremely impressed with the standard of racing in the three man Sonar Twice America’s Cup champion, Rick Dodson is extremely impressed with the standard of racing in the three man Sonar keelboat class at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. The regatta is being held in Guanabara Bay on three of the courses used for the Olympic Sailing Regatta in August.
Posted on 13 Sep
Debriefing the Rio 2016 Olympics with Team USA’s Helena Scutt
I talked with Team USA’s Helena Scutt to hear about her Olympic experience, and to learn more about her post-Rio plans. The 49erFX was introduced to Olympic circles when it replaced the Women’s Match Racing event following the 2012 Games. Not surprisingly, it drew high-performance sailors for the Rio 2016 Olympics, including Team USA’s Paris Henken and Helena Scutt. While Henken and Scutt were Olympic first-timers, they put on a strong show. I caught up with Scutt to hear more about her Olympic experience.
Posted on 8 Sep
A Q&A with Peter Bresnan ONE Palma’s founder and director
Sail-World interviewed ONE Palma’s founder Peter Bresnan to learn about the company’s partnership with McConaghy Boats For the past eight years, ONE Palma (formerly OneSails Spain) has been building a strong name, first as a sailmaker and later with refit work. Recently, ONE Palma and McConaghy Boats-legendary boatbuilders who have crafted some of the planet’s fastest sailboats-entered a business partnership. I caught up with Peter Bresnan, ONE Palma’s founder and director, to learn more about this new direction.
Posted on 2 Sep
America's Cup - Emirates Team NZ train late on the Waitemata Harbour
Emirates Team NZ were out for a training session that ran into the early Thursday evening. Emirates Team NZ were out for a training session that ran into the early Thursday evening. The team were sailing their recently launched AC45 Surrogate test boat which features an articulated rudder gantry - taking the AC45 close to the geometry of the AC50 to be used in the 2017 America's Cup.
Posted on 1 Sep
Dateline Rio - Sailing Olympics review - as good as it gets?
The Rio Sailing Olympics was widely judged to have been the best of recent times. The Rio Sailing Olympics was widely judged to have been the best of recent times. The weather was better than Weymouth and Qingdao, the courses more varied, but from a working media perspective, it was the people running the Rio regatta who really made the difference.
Posted on 26 Aug
Rio 2016 - Plain speaking by triple-medalist on Olympic sailing moves
Triple Olympic medalist, Santiago Lange has been on the sharp end of changes made to Olympic classes and formats Santiago Lange, a six-time Olympian and Bronze medallist in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, won his third medal – Gold sailing in the Nacra 17 class. With that length of experience at an Olympic level, having sailed the Laser, Tornado and now Nacra 17 classes his comments on the future shape of the Olympic regatta was one of the highlights of the Medallists Media Conferences.
Posted on 25 Aug
An Q&A with Steve and Heidi Benjamin about the NYYC’s 2016 Queen’s Cup
Sail-World caught up with Steve and Heidi Benjamin to learn more about Heidi’s historic win in the NYYC’s Queen’s Cup. When it comes to U.S. Grand Prix sailing, it’s hard not to encounter the names of Steve and Heidi Benjamin. The two highly polished sailors have been successfully campaigning their series of yachts, named SPOOKIE, for years, starting first with a Carkeek 40 and progressing to their TP52. I caught up with Steve and Heidi to learn more about Heidi’s historic win in the NYYC’s Queen’s Cup
Posted on 19 Aug
Rio 2016 - Images of the penultimate race in the Finns - Scott wins
Sail-World's Richard Gladwell was on the water for the final race of the Qualifying Series of the Mens Finn Sail-World's Richard Gladwell was on the water for the final race of the Qualifying Series of the Mens Finn, in what potentially could have been Giles Scott's (GBR) Gold medal winning race. In the end, the current world champion won in style.
Posted on 15 Aug