GPS trackers for boat race

Keeping track: Yachts will have satellite systems installed for the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour race.
Keeping track: Yachts will have satellite systems installed for the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour race.

THE Coffs Harbour and Royal Prince Alfred Yacht clubs have partnered with British company Yellow Brick to install satellite GPS trackers on boats in the fleet of the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour race starting on January 2.

Boat positions will be updated on the event website every 15 minutes and will follow the fleet from Broken Bay to Coffs Harbour Marina during the race, a first in the event’s 30-year history.

As the host club, the RPAYC wanted to make sure the race could also be enjoyed by those who elect to stay onshore – family, friends and followers.

After investigating a range of options over the past year, the club decided to invest in a state-of-the-art tracking system to allow the thrill of the race to be shared by those ashore and on the water.

The technology will provide a real-time, graphical representation of the yachts during the race, while up-to-date commentary is to be provided via Twitter and Facebook during the race and on the event website.

Additionally, the RPAYC decided to take the opportunity to streamline the administrative functions of a major race like the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour by integrating online registrations with tracking and communications.

“The Top Yacht system is used by most Australian yacht clubs to manage their races, so it was natural for the club to select it as the online registration system,” Coffs Committee IT and web support expert Marius Coomans said.

“On the other hand, selecting a tracking system proved more challenging.

“A number of different tracking solutions are on the market with a variety of capabilities. While terrestrial systems, based on the mobile phone network, are becoming more common, viable systems are still very expensive and their range limited.

“Satellite-based systems have been used for tracking yachts for some time and provide the coverage required for offshore races.”

The Yellow Brick tracking system was selected because of its distinct advantages, which included being an easily-installed, self-contained unit; battery operated and not requiring external power, and; the system uses the Iridium satellites to provide updates within seconds and the synchronised position reports provide unequalled fleet position accuracy.

The Skipr Tracker Integration System pulls together information from the Top Yacht online race registration package and results package and integrates it with the Yellow Brick satellite tracking system to present the race positions and results via the purpose-built Pittwater to Coffs website,

The resulting system will prove its worth on many fronts, building interest in the race for those onshore, and providing convenient, up-to-date information for participants and reduced administration costs for the organisers.