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August 15, 2011
GPS technology to assist media covering sailing

Photographer boat signified by green media flag. Photo/Philip Barker
by Philip Barker, AIPS Europe Executive Committee

AUGUST 15, 2011, PORTLAND, Dorset - Cutting edge satellite technology will help journalists follow the 2012 Olympic sailing.

Organisers have this week been testing Global Positioning Satellite system similar to that used at the America’s Cup . Developed by sponsors Omega , the tiny water- tight boxes relay positions to a start boat and from there to an onshore receiver at the National Sailing Academy. From here, live 3D computer generated images will be available in the venue press centre.

It will also be used in the television coverage offered by the Olympic Broadcasting Service at the Games.

The sheer number of boats involved has created a few difficulties for the scientists. They will continue testing with much larger fields at the world sailing championships this December in Perth.

‘We still have some technology problems but they are covering a huge area of racing and we are getting there.’ said International Sailing Federation technical delegate Alastair Fox.

By this time next year, organisers hope the only issue will be what to call the system. The Olympics are renowned for the alphabet soup of abbreviations, so expect a three letter moniker to describe the GPS.

Organisers expect most interest for the medal races, designed to ensure that interest is maintained in racing up until the very last moment.

At the test event, reigning Olympic champion Ben Ainslie maintained his domination in the Finns on his home water. He goes for his fourth Olympic gold next year. Australia’s Tom Slingsby continued his successful run at Weymouth and Portland in the men’s Laser and demonstrated why he was World sailor of the year for 2010.

High speed media boats

For media wishing to get closer to the action, high speed boats will take up to 70 photographers onto the water each day. Three larger launches will accommodate the written press. Providing the conditions allow, 60 writers could take to the water each day.

The seas can be bumpy and the media are warned of the danger of seasickness.

The launches will follow racing in the ten Olympic classes according to demand, and those interested in a specific races will be grouped together . Launches will be as flexible as possible in returning to shore.

Some of the racing passes right in front of the Nothe, a fort where spectators will watch the action during the Games.

The venue press centre will be in a temporary structure on the Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy complex. It will be much bigger than that used at the test event, with space for 185, and an overflow area in the media conference room.

Just to keep everyone interested the venue also has its own sea monster. The Veasta is reputed to be four metres tall with the torso of a fish and the upper body of a crested sea horse and locals claim recent sightings.

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