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Tokyo2020: Late rules change on wind recording wrong foots many teams.

by Richard Gladwell/ 26 Jul 2021 17:57 PDT 27 July 2021
Yotbot in action - 2016 Olympic Regatta 470 Women - Medal Race © Richard Gladwell

Two weeks ago, after two previous interpretations, World Sailing finally made a definitive ruling banning the use of electronic devices - laptops, tablets and similar - for wind data logging on board coach boats for the Tokyo2020 Olympic Regatta.

The issue has been under discussion for sometime, particularly with Olympic use.

The move has hit those teams using the New Zealand developed YotBot technology - available to all teams as an off the shelf package of software and hardware - that can be carried on a plane, and needs no special installation.

Yotbot's Kylie Robinson told Sail-World, that the Dunedin based company's solution, which has been in existence for 20 years, had been purchased by 16 teams at the Tokyo2020 regatta.

Other teams, with big budgets have developed their own, often using substantial R&D budgets available through their Government funders. However these systems are often custom fitted into coach boats with dedicated nautical displays etc.

For developing countries carry aboard systems, such as YotBot can be set up by using a few cable ties and tape - which means that low-budget teams can charter RIBs at a regatta venue, install YotBot or similar and be in the same weather technology position as the top teams.

All devices, including phones are now banned on coach boats for the Olympic Regatta. And the ancient method of a piece of wool and a hand-bearing compass is all that is allowed. No real time wind recording readings are available either.

The cost of the YotBot system is NZD$7,600 (USD5,320) - a very small part of most teams budget - even developing nations, and the technology is also used as part of their regular coaching program. The system has been developed in conjunction with Yachting New Zealand's high performance sailors, including double America's Cup champions and 2016 Gold medalists Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, along with their coach Hamish Willcox.

The advantage for developing countries is that they can purchase for a relatively modest price the same technology that is used by top teams and developed in conjunction with those teams.

The YotBot system is also used in race management, including the Tokyo2020 fleet which has at least 12 boats fitted with YotBot to provide the wind information from off the water.

Robinson says that World Sailing's late decision has called into question future development of the product, as it is clearly not feasible for a company to pour its resources into a product which is latter ruled illegal for Olympic regatta use by the World Sailing.

The YotBot system was also used at the last America's Cup - with devices located in every mark to provide wind information for media and officials.

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