Round the Island Race Innovates Live Consumption of Sport.


The SportBusiness New Media conference in Manchester yesterday, like many sports events in the UK, was heavily biassed towards ball sports. The problem with ball-sports is that they don’t have the same challenges experienced by other sports – the kind of challenges that lead to innovation.

There is probably not a lot of point using GPS for a game of football. The stadium is a confined space and there are a limited number of players on the pitch. Coverage of mass participation sports is quite a different matter – take the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race for example.

An estimated 1700 or so boats compete in this event every year. With an average crew size of 5, that’s around 8,000 competitors, making the race one of the UK’s biggest participatory events. There are not two teams in this race, but 1700, so how do you manage to cater for the spectators who are following one boat or another?

The Island Sailing Club and title sponsor J.P. Morgan Asset Management have announced that they will be introducing live GPS tracking for all boats taking part in the 2010 Round the Island Race on Saturday 19th June. Many GPS enabled phones have the ability to provide real-time tracking to the internet via downloadable applications. Several boats competing in the 2009 race set up their own live feeds but in 2010, the Round the Island project will attempt to collect all the boat tracking feeds into a single place, viewable on the internet.

Competitors with compatible equipment will be able to download a small piece of software that will allow their mobile phone or laptop to become a real-time GPS tracking device. The device’s position will be periodically transmitted to the official Race website, where a simple, easy-to-use race viewer will allow visitors to monitor the progress of individual boats throughout the race.

The tracking solution has been developed by the Race Technology Partner, Next Generation Results and funded by J.P. Morgan Asset Management. It will be one of the largest GPS event tracking initiatives ever undertaken with mobile phone technology.

The cost of GPS tracking has tumbled in recent years. Once only available to the most well-funded teams, now anyone can provide live tracking information live to the internet with readily available mobile phone handsets. Unlimited mobile data plans have also helped reduce the cost of tracking via this method, though it relies on having a mobile phone signal.

The challenge for race organisers will be getting all the signals into one place and providing the information in a way that spectators online can find the boat they are looking for. Website spectators will be able to search and select up to 10 boats that they want to follow at any one time through the Race Viewer. Boats will be searchable via their name and class. Each boat tracked will show its elapsed time from the race start and current GPS co-ordinates.

The competitors also benefit from this tracking technology as they will be able to replay their race and compare their performance with their rivals to see where they got it right – or wrong!

The technology has application for many sports including Rally, Mountain Biking, Triathlon etc. It’s a great example of how sailing is at the cutting edge of media technology and live sport content delivery.

More details of supported equipment and how to register for the service will be available on the race website at http://www.roundtheisland.org.uk