Described as a “potential game changer” for regattas by both race officials and competitors, robot racing mark tech is set to change the course of race management forever.
Having used smart technology racing marks at the RS21 European Championships in Italy, the RS Sailing team were bowled over by the savings race officials made in time and resource; both in preparation for races but also in those time-pressured gaps between races.
And no-one missed the laborious dragging, positioning, checking, and re-positioning of every mark to their spot!
ROBOT RACING MARK TECH
There are two main players in the robot racing mark stakes and they’re both anchorless; US based MarkSetBot uses inflatable marks, controlled via an app for easy routing and repositioning, whilst European leader Smartmark controls their marks via a login on their website rather than an app – super easy from an iPad or tablet.
BATTERY OPERATED ROBOTIC MARKS
RS Sailing deployed Smartmark’s battery-powered robotic marks at the RS21 UK Nationals in Lymington in August, and the report back was glowing “the robotic marks performed flawlessly, even after a full day of racing, batteries were still at an impressive.”
These robot racing marks sit on their GPS coordinates, using a combination of GPS, sensor tech and innovative software to measure any movement from the original mark. The software auto-corrects the GPS when there’s deviation in the signal, which is what enables it’s highly precise movements. Great for positioning and speedy course adjustments.
At the base of its fibre-glass outer are two motorised propellers, the structure slightly heavier than its counterparts, keeping it more stable in the water and protecting all technical parts inside the sturdy GRP hull. Battery powered, they’re easy to manoeuvre and since they’re hidden within an inflatable cone covered by a brightly coloured outer, they’re impossible to miss on the water.
RS Sailing officials hired orange cones for the event, but colours are varied and clubs who purchase have the option to offer sponsorship opportunities by customising them in colour or print.
Measuring in at just over 1 cubic metre and extending 2.35 metres above from the waterline, racers can’t fail to miss the next rounding mark as they head up the leg of the course.
EASY SET UP
Liam Willis, helm on RS21’s Dark & Stormy, was on the course for the event and explained more about the set up…
“The robotic racing marks arrived on a standard sized pallet, stacked simply, each with their own launching trolleys and towing lines. We just attached the inflatable on top, buckled up the webbing straps and slid the covers on.
For launching, we set the location coordinates, launched the robot marks down the slipway and controlled their positioning via the iPad.
We ended up using the RS Electric Pulse 63 rib to drag the marks out to the racecourse vicinity, but you could send them out on their own, you’d just end up using more battery charge.
The whole thing took far less time that it would for traditional mark layers to coordinate, drop off and move around the course. And with all marks controlled from one hub on the committee boat, we could plot and re-plot the entire course from one, anchored spot. Less faff, shorter set-up time and fewer course corrections.”
CLEANER, SUSTAINABLE RACING
With the best will in the world traditional buoys can get caught on the seabed, damaging vegetation, and endangering marine wildlife. With no lines or anchor, the robot racing marks are a cleaner alternative, quieter underwater and their battery power ensures long-lasting, reliable propulsion. With fewer race-assist boats managing the course you can cut down on fuel consumption too.
ACCURATE START TIMES
Sometimes it can take up to 40 minutes to re-lay the marks for the next race, that’s a lot of waiting around, but with the Smartmark technology you simply adjust the coordinates via the tablet and hey presto – the marks manoeuvre on command.
Reducing set-up time between races will be a big win for televised events where the accuracy of race start times are super-critical.
At a recent Spanish regatta comprising 30 boats, two race officers ran an entire course from the committee boat. Coordinating all marks from one location. Saving time, volunteer resource and effort in the set up and in-between races!
The Paris Olympics 2024 test event in Marseille recently used robotic racing mark technology and they’re set to make an appearance in the upcoming E1 Series – the all-electric race boat championships – with racecourses hosting up to 30 track “Smartmarkers.”
LEAVING NO MARK
One of the guiding principles for RS Sailing is environmental sustainability, protecting biodiversity and leaving no mark. With this in mind, the team have been behind the scenes discussing next year’s season and are thrilled to announce that for 2024, RS Sailing will be offering Smartmark’s robotic marks as part of their RS21 regatta hire packages. The more sustainable, clean, time efficient and accurate alternative to racecourse management.
To find out more about regatta hire packages contact RS21 Class Manager, Nick Redding: email@example.com
Article written by: Vicks Ward