Curtailing Crustaceans with Geeky Enthusiasm - Rob Coup


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As a young and time-poor yachtie I need to get a leg up over the old barnacles who spend every afternoon out racing on the harbour. Can my two friends technology & data help me kick ass and take home the prizes?

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  • G’day folks, my name is Rob! And I’m here to talk about sailing.
  • I live in a beautiful city a wee-way north of here, and spend a hunk of my time out sailing on the Waitemata Harbour and in the Hauraki Gulf. You really can’t beat it :)
  • We do a bit of racing, maybe once or twice a week. For those who care, the boat is a Farr 1020 which is about 33 feet long, and was built in the glorious eighties. We mostly sail with the Ponsonby Cruising Club who are based down near the harbour bridge.
  • Our crew is young and beautiful, but we work hard and don’t have a lot of spare time. We certainly can’t be out on the harbour every afternoon.
  • However, the old barnacles who race against us do spend every afternoon of every day racing. They got past ten thousand hours a few years back…
  • And when they’re not out on a boat, they’re in the pub talking about being out on a boat.
  • We do okay, but there’s a bit too much of this
  • And not enough of this!
  • We want to win more prizes. In sailing, prizes invariably means bar-tabs or alcohol. Yay!
  • What makes a win? A faster boat helps, but handicaps cancel that out. We’re not too shabby at our skills either. But the real key is learning the tricks of the harbour. Apparently that comes from something called “experience”. So what are these tricks?
  • Tides and currents make a big difference. Getting sucked backwards is suboptimal. Getting pushed forwards while others are being sucked back? Classic.
  • Tides head in different directions in different places at different times. Should you stay out here, or sneak right alongside that Navy ship like a would-be terrorist?
  • Wind makes quite a big difference too, as you might imagine...
  • Every hill, building, and wharf casts a wind shadow and has funny winds swirling around it and funneling nearby. If those funny winds are helping you - awesome. If they’re stopping you from getting where you want to go? Not so good. And of course, it all depends on the direction and strength of the wind at any particular moment.
  • You’re never going to win if you just follow the boat in front of you. Well, you can always hope that they catastrophically screw up. You really need to do something and go somewhere different. But what? where? and when is the right time to make your move?
  • Remember evil captain Barnacle?
  • Apparently him & his evil pirate mates have a secret hand-drawn map of the harbour with all the tricks on! Can you believe it? Might look a bit like this if it was drawn on concrete. Only with sailing stuff instead of monkeys. Yeah. Umm. So….
  • What is the big idea? The big idea is to use some open data, mash it together, and come up with our own interactive secret map. Only it wouldn’t be secret. That way we skip this whole “experience” thing and get back to competing on our skills. As a bonus, someone could take it, add their own data, and use it anywhere else in the world.
  • Plus, do you think Evil Captain Barnacle is going to be using the latest technology? Doubt it.
  • We’ll need some maps. LINZ can help us with those - thanks!.
  • We’ll also need to know what the wind has been like in the past, and how it changes in different places around the harbour. NIWA, Coastguard, and the yacht clubs should be able to help us here.
  • The port has nifty and accurate data showing how the tide changes around the harbour. As the tides go in and out the little arrows go in lots of odd directions. They also have really accurate data on where the shallow and deep bits start and finish. Apparently they use all this to stop big ships crashing into wharves or something...
  • We’ll also need to know when the tides are, and how big they are going to be. Again, LINZ can help us with this.
  • So, if we can combine all that with where we are right now
  • And what the wind is like right now
  • And a bit of maths. And by maths I really mean software, but I liked this picture better.
  • We’ll also need some funky gadget to display the current winds and tide flows on, and see what they’re predicted to be 15-30 minutes into the future. This will allow us to make better decisions about where to go.
  • And better decisions means we end up in front more often!
  • And then we win!
  • And the crew rejoice! If you want to help out with this idea, come out sailing with us, or learn more, feel free to get in touch. Thank you!
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