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Satellite steers BMW Round Ireland Race

27th June 2008
Satellite steers BMW Round Ireland Race

The best way to safeguard the future is to invent it and by introducing
satellite tracker technology, Wicklow Sailing Club brought internet access
to this year's BMW Round Ireland race.

Out went arbitrary reporting positions relayed by Coast Guard and in came
precise tracking on computer screens for the five day voyage of the 40 boat
fleet.

Its impact was most apparent yesterday in the exciting closing stages.

Pundits tracked Irish sea duels between Cavatina, Ireland West and McCarthy
motors.ie to predict the overall prize with some certainty.

The investment in this technology is a quantum leap forward for race
organisers and has been widely acknowledged as such.

Wicklow Sailing Club say its website attracted 57,000 hits over the past
five days. It puts the club on the map but in a wider context it's also a
boost for the campaign, encouraging more interest in offshore sailing at a
time when it is in decline.

But such innovation should not end there because, if the comments of this
years line honours winner are anything to go by, the club is sitting on a
golden opportunity.

If this is the case why does the race’s appeal, though deserving of far
greater international note, remain rooted in a small fleet?

When he came ashore from his second circumnavigation, Leopard skipper Mike Slade said that the race timing was an obstacle to further
international growth.

"It's so close to the UK's Round the Island race, and it's not a Fastnet
year. I think if it was on in a Fastnet year, you'd see more of the big
boats coming here for the Round Ireland and then doing the Fastnet."

By listening to the advice from Slade – owner of a super-yacht which holds
some of the world's biggest records – Wicklow can make further innovations
for 2010.

The club could also consider wider changes, including the course itself.

In a replay of recent races, the last 100 miles of the 2008 voyage have seen
a dramatic change in fortune for one time backmarkers.

Slower boats were the winners again last night and the high speed endeavours
of Wednesday have been relegated in the handicap stakes at least.

This continued march of the slow boats has prompted calls for an examination
of the course to see if there is another way of staging Ireland's premier
offshore race.

Essentially, statistics from 1986 to 2008 show the race is won and lost
between Rathlin island and South rock; and last nights closing stage of the
15th edition proved no different.

Because the race effectively restarts as boats can be caught in a
tidal gate after some six hundred miles of fair sailing, it has been
suggested that the option of sending the fleet northabout on a flood tide
should at least be examined.

Another option is to allow competitors sail in either direction after the
start passing through a gate east of the Wicklow line.

As those stepping ashore in Wicklow testified last night – though brutal at
times – the Round Ireland is the perfect offshore race course and it needs
to be sold around the world as such.

The entire sailing community needs to get behind Wicklow and assist it in
promoting this 704-mile offshore race as an icon of Ireland's summer sport.

Published in Editors Blog
Afloat.ie Team

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