A message from the Race Director

Stuart Quarrie looks at how the SMS text messaging of Cowes Week courses has gone this week

Friday August 9th 2002, Author: Stuart Quarrie, Location: United Kingdom
This year, Cowes Combined Clubs has for the first time undertaken an experiment with over 500 of the 893 entries racing at Skandia Life Cowes Week using SMS texting of courses to their mobile phones. The software for sending courses by text message was developed by Simon Middlemiss. It was designed to link in with the course setting software written by Graeme Winn of Sailmath that has been in use for the last three years.

Some early glitches in the system were quickly ironed out and the system now appears to be accurate, robust and speedy. One particular problem we found is that Orange do not support text messages from outside the UK. As we use an SMS gateway based in Switzerland, this meant that we had to ask competitors using the Orange network to give us a mobile number on a different network.

Competitor feedback has been very positive. Although billed and used as an experiment, with the traditional methods of transmission as the only 'official' courses, we now have over 500 boats signed up to receive text messages. From competitor comment, the format of the text string has been modified slightly to make it easier to read and various other minor changes have been incorporated.

On the Platform at the Royal Yacht Squadron, the course setter computer operators input the course that has been set by the race officers. The Sailmath software then converts this into a diagram and shows the estimated times of rounding each mark, as well as highlighting any course clashes.

At the 10-minute warning signal, the operator then selects the class and presses Œsend¹. The list of telephone numbers for that class is sent via the Web to the Swiss SMS gateway together with the message string. Within 5-seconds of the operator pressing Œsend¹, all the mobile phones for the class are beeping to show that the course has arrived.

We can also send other messages, either to an individual boat, a class or the whole fleet so competitors can be easily told of postponements etc.

Stuart Quarrie
Director, CCC

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