In business, we often talk about the difference between efficiency (“doing it right”) and effectiveness (“doing the right thing”). And in today’s fast-changing markets, there’s often a tradeoff involved, where if you optimize any particular measure in the short term you may suffer in the longer term (e.g. if you optimize profitability by not investing in new products).
In sailing, as in business, there are many measures to take into account, and top performance is achieved by attaining the optimal mix. For example, when you’re sailing upwind, there’s a tradeoff between direction and speed. If you sail too close to the wind, you’ll go slowly. If you sail too far off the wind, you’ll go faster, but over a longer distance. The most effective course is between the two, where the combination of boat speed and direction generate the most windward velocity (“velocity made good”).
SAP has a great deal of experience helping with business analytics, and now the SAP BusinessObjects team are using that expertise to create a first set of sailing analytics for the SAP 5O5 World Championship in Aarhus, Denmark.
For example, the Dashboard Design (formerly Xcelsius) visualization below shows the leader board of the fifth race. For each leg, the top ten boats are shown, with the time each arrived at the mark after the leader. The top bar allows you to change the icon size and color based on different criteria. By benchmarking their performance against others, the sailors can get insight into their performance.
For example, in the view above, we can see that crew of Napier and Cram in boat GBR 8701 came in 7th for the fifth leg (tacking upwind to the windward mark). But what’s interesting is that they achieved a higher top speed (6.21 km/h) than the #2, #3, #4 and #5 boats (the color and size of each icon shows the relative top speed compared to the other boats. So, as in the example above, the problem may be that they are sailing just a little too far off the wind compared to the leading boats (although of course sail racing is a lot more complicated than this simple example, and wind shifts, currents, and the tactical maneuvers of the other boats all play a huge part).
Here’s a selection of the analyses available on the analysis page of the official SAP 505 World Championship site:
And here’s a bonus Xcelsius dashboard I put together that lets you find photos of the sailors and boats, by bow number, sail number, helm name, crew name, or country:
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