Sailing Analytics for the SAP 5O5 World Championship

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).

imageIn 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).

The analysis page of the official SAP 505 World Championship site gave examples:

The Race Analysis Dashboard provides you with a quick view of the Leader Group and allows for comparison across several key measures at each Mark Rounding point. Using information like Velocity Made Good and Distance Traveled, sailors and spectators alike can put the knowledge behind the data to see which tactics were the leading ones on this day. Is it better to travel further into clean wind to gain speed, or does a tighter course bring the advantage in today’s conditions?

The Leader Comparison Report gives the user the ability to compare key metrics across the Top 10 Racers for that Race. Comparing things such as Distance Travelled and Leg Time provides a quick view of how one team compares to the others in this group. Did they sail more distance in order to gain more speed with clean wind? By comparing these key statistics in the Leader Group, we begin to see the results of tactics and strategies and begin to understand the continuous refinement happening on the course.

Race Information Dashboard gives general information about the race, the competitors and the standings to date.



2 responses to “Sailing Analytics for the SAP 5O5 World Championship”

  1. James Gaskin Avatar
    James Gaskin

    Hello Timo,

    I one of the commentators for the largest Team Racing event in the World, the Wilson Trophy, held in West Kirby UK. We are the largest three boat dinghy team racing event, held on the Marine Lake at West kirby with grandstand viewing and live commentary. Three colour matched boats race on a short (7-9 minute) course against three other colour matched boats, we sail over 300 races over the event weekend using a swiss league computer generated race system.

    I saw the 505 TV programme, and I am extremely excited at the possible use and exposure for SAP to utilise your Sailing Analytics system. I would like to explore if SAP / you would be interested in exploring if your system can be used for a Team Racing application.

    I look forward to hearing from you,

    Kind regards,
    James Gaskin.


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