The timeliness of this particular service is spot on considering the predicament of Abby Sunderland…
Is getting the best weather forecast important for winning races? Of course. There are plenty of available sources of weather data out there and some excellent meteorologists who specialise in forecasts for sailors. But just as important is the impact of current– ignore it at your peril or you’ll find yourself spat out the back of the fleet and last up to the bar.
Enter Tidetech who are now providing specialist oceanographic and tidal services for racing sailors – and it’s absolutely groundbreaking stuff.
Many sailors tend to overlook the current – perhaps because in some venues there is precious little information available to us, or what is available is hard to interpret and difficult to use. The thing is, there is actually some awesome data about currents, tide and sea temperature out there – but it’s not easily available to us because it’s hidden away on the servers of scientific institutes and written in complex data formats that only ocean scientists use. Also, there are some places where there isn’t any current info available but there is clearly a need (more on this later).
Tidetech began with a chance meeting between Tidetech founders Penny Haire (Yacht racing navigation geek, ex RYA Chief Yachting Instructor who was looking for something new and interesting to do) and Dr Roger Proctor (research scientist, internationally recognised coastal oceanographer, consultant to the UK Olympic Sailing Team). Rog has long thought that it’s a real waste that the institutions he worked for didn’t have an interest in making the science he was producing available to the public in a useful way.
That was 18 months ago. Since then the pair have been compiling a comprehensive resource of tidal stream, sea temperature and ocean current info sourced from various institutions and authorities worldwide. They have also (this is the very cool bit) started building their own detailed tidal models for venues where there is clearly a need – such as San Francisco.
At this point it should be said that having Dr Proctor involved in your oceanography company is like having Stephen Hawking help you with your math homework. Dr Proctor is regarded by his peers in the oceanographic community as a legend in his field and he was building tidal models back in the 80’s when computers were the size of a house. The story gets better because the Tidetech team have now added another guru to the team – Dr. Roger Flather – a pioneer of tidal modelling who developed techniques that are now used by every ocean modeller in the world. Roger Flather has recently retired from the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory where he constructed the world’s first ever tidal model back in the 70’s. Whilst at Proudman the two Rogers built a storm surge model for the UK Government which is now in daily use to predict flooding events and informs decisions on when to raise or lower the Thames Barrier. They have constructed many other models for the UK Government including an oil spill prediction model for the Persian Gulf during the first Gulf War.
So what can Tidetech do for sailors?
- All the information we source from third parties is selected by our team as ‘best available’.
- Their in-house tidal models are produced by scientists who are highly regarded for their work in this field
- All info is in Grib format so it can be used in navigation software
- They provide custom support , analysis and data for high profile events – Newport Bermuda , Sydney Hobart etc
In the last 18 months Tidetech have supplied data and expert analysis to the 2008 and 2009 Sydney to Hobart winners and various Americas Cup, TP52 and Volvo Teams.
OK, so how does average Joe sailor get hold of this stuff? If you’re familiar with getting weather forecasts in Grib then you’ll understand immediately what Grib can do. If not, read on.
Grib is essentially weather or oceanographic data in electronic format that can be downloaded from the internet and displayed in navigational software. Apart from the ability to animate and display the data in a way that is far better than looking at an image in the internet, it’s used to perform calculations to calculate the fastest (optimal) route from A to B.
Weather routing has been in used in Ocean Racing for at least 15yrs, but until now without the benefit of a comprehensive source of currents, sea temperature and tidal streams.
If you haven’t used Grib before, Tidetech has a free viewer that you can use to download and view data (it does weather as well). Otherwise their Grib data is compatible with most popular nav software packages, such as Expedition, Maxsea and Deckman.
Check out their website and send them an email if you want more info or to have a chat – they’re happy to call or Skype you back.