Soccer team in a huddle

Sailing: Going for Gold with Smart Data

August 25, 2016 by Andreas Schmitz

The SAP Tide app offers Germany’s sailing team information about currents, wind, and tide so they can set the fastest course.

The members of Germany’s sailing team were no strangers to Rio de Janeiro. For the past three years, their mission was to find out everything there is to know about the currents and tides of the Guanabara Bay, at the mouth of which stands the iconic Sugarloaf Mountain. Team coach Oliver Freiheit floated buoys equipped with GPS and sensors at over 120 points in the Atlantic and the bay. Freiheit and his team collected over 4,000 measurements.

“Today, the current is 10% stronger but high tide hasn’t changed,” says Freiheit in early July, just a few weeks before the first race in Rio. The more measurements he has, the better he can work out the effect of wind on current, and the more he knows about likely racing conditions.

SAP Tide App: Plotting Current, Water Depth, and Wind

The team of coaches and athletes look very carefully at this date before, between, and after races. They want to know the optimum course through the complex current and wind patterns. The SAP Tide app helps them find the answer.

“The system is calibrated using daily measurements and data like wind speed and direction,” says Freiheit. “We use this information back on dry land to run through scenarios in which we set the boat on different courses.”

The coaches access the data on their tablets and smartphones. Between races they can tell the sailors that conditions have changed and reflect those changes in new scenarios.

The app can simulate currents, contains a tide calendar, and provides strategic analyses for any class of boat from the catamaran Nacra 17 to the 49er sailing dinghy and the Finn and Laser dinghies. It plots wind and weather conditions in polar diagrams, and shows the capability of different classes of boat. In other words, it shows at which angle to the wind the boat sails fastest.

Ingo Büll, a physicist based in Kiel, one of Germany’s major port cities, has been analyzing data on ocean currents for many years. He has worked closely with SAP consultants from the company’s Data Science and Prediction division on building the app, explains Stefan Lacher, head of sponsorship innovations at SAP.

The SAP Tide app is designed for people who compete at professional level. SAP Sailing Analytics software was originally intended the same audience but has not gone unnoticed by ambitious novices, who are also adopting it. The software now complements the strengths of the SAP Tide app, which measures tides and currents on the course. Current wind speed and direction data can then be used in SAP Sailing Analytics so that teams can simulate different currents and compute the best course.

According to Lacher: “If the wind is blowing at eight knots and we apply that information to this morning’s currents, the simulation shows which side of the course is the advantaged side.”

SAP Sailing Analytics: Analyzing Strategy and Tactics

SAP Sailing Analytics considerably improves the quality of tactical analyses, believes Marcus Bauer, head of technology at Sailing Team Germany. Teams use the software after races to analyze their performance. Drawing on millions of data points, SAP Sailing Analytics calculates, for instance, how much speed was lost when tacking and jibing, in other words when maneuvering the boat during the race. Data gathered from several years’ regattas is now in SAP HANA for evaluation by SAP analytics solutions. Coaches and teams can compare their performance and use this benchmark to filter out the optimum patterns.

SAP Sailing Analytics is a cloud solution deployed on the SAP HANA platform. Using GPS, it helps teams follow races in detail from afar. Since teams are not allowed to communicate with the boat during the race, the main advantage of the applications is that they can be used to analyze race performance when everyone is back on shore. They show race rankings, average speeds, distances sailed, and how the distances between the boats changed over the race.

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