A unique race viewer for a unique race
An insight into creating an industry first, responsive race viewer for the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.
The 40,000 nautical mile Clipper race is unique. It is not only the world’s longest yacht race, but it is the only race where the organisers supply a fleet of twelve identical racing yachts, each with a fully qualified skipper to safely guide a crew of ordinary, everyday people who have chosen to take on this extraordinary challenge.
The 2013-14 race saw a unique global audience base of over 900 million in over 200 countries, seeing news coverage in the press, radio, TV and online. Countless more engaged through social media.
Now that the 2015-16 race is underway, the most popular area of the website is keeping followers up to date with the action, and the teams informed of their competitors’ progress. The Race Viewer is the result of months of planning, design and development.
Where our Race Viewer sits apart from its rivals is in the way it has been built. Similar GPS/mapping viewers for sporting events are built using Flash; an outdated web platform that is big, slow and, most importantly, does not work on mobile devices. With more than 60% of visitors to the Clipper website doing so on a mobile or tablet, our race viewer has raised the bar. Built using modern web languages and Google’s mapping API, we have created a way for race followers to keep up with the action from any device. The result is a fast, responsive viewer working on all devices and any screen size – all vital elements for the expected 10,000,000 page views over the next 11 months.
Under the bonnet
Each yacht is fitted with a GPS beacon set to transmit its position hourly throughout each leg (more frequently during starts and finishes).
In less than one fifth of a second, the website collects this data and calculates each team’s:
- Distance to the finish line (in nautical miles)
- Gap to the leader (in nautical miles)
- Distance covered over the last 12 hours (in nautical miles)
- Speed over ground (knots)
- Course over ground (degrees)
Once these calculations have completed, the website has all the data it needs to keep followers up to speed with race progress.
Every six hours, all teams receive an email generated by the Race Viewer containing their competitors’ positions (latitude/longitude) and their DTF (distance to finish). Teams also have a strategic ‘Stealth Mode’ option that is available to them on most legs. The crew notifies the Clipper Race Team in advance, and then, at a specific time, their progress is temporarily frozen on the Race Viewer, hidden from the other teams and not included in their email updates. This is particularly useful to teams who may have spotted a course that could give them the edge, but don’t want their competitors to see their progress.
Behind the scenes, this information is used by the Clipper Race Team to monitor all teams’ progress and provide an essential race safety tool.
Race Viewer features
The team’s current positions are then plotted to the race map along with their previous 23 positions, allowing followers to rewind the action and see how the race has unfolded over the last 24 hours. Clicking on a team’s marker on the map displays a pop-up showing their distance to the finish line (DTF), speed over ground (SOG) and course over ground (COG).
The toolbar at the top allows followers to customise their race viewer. Weather layers can be activated, showing current and forecasted wind, swell, air pressure and temperature. There is even a handy ruler tool that can be used to measure distances between landmarks.
Below the map is the race clock, counting up the seconds since the teams set sail, and below that the leaderboards.
Throughout the website we have also added a stripped back Race Viewer accessible from the footer, so that a visitor can, with a single click, see where all the teams are along with an overview of the current race standings from any page of the website.
Whilst the 2015-16 race has only just begun, the feedback from both race followers and Clipper Ventures has been overwhelmingly positive, and has already proven to be a vital safety tool for the Clipper Race Team during emergencies.
“In producing the Race Viewer, Salad Creative has not only provided followers a unique and engaging tool to track the fleet’s progress, but one that looks and operates exceptionally well.
The Race Viewer has received over 500,000 page views since launching on 31 August, with users regularly admitting to ‘Race Viewer addiction’.
No matter what device is being used, the Race Viewer is displayed perfectly, allowing our users to keep up to date no matter where they are.
As well as the public interface, Salad Creative has created a platform for our Race Management team to constantly keep track of the fleet, which provides an essential race safety tool during the 11-month long series.”
Digital Media Manager