YACHT RACE START SEQUENCER
PJ Aviation’s Yacht Race Start Sequencer provides visual and audio signals automatically over a wide area.
For many years, Free State Yacht Club skippers struggled to see the flags and coloured shapes at the race officer’s bridge. A fixed start line from the shore is used, the outer end approximately 1km from the bridge. The bridge is located on the side of an embankment, with sun from behind and above. The bridge officer was often alone, trying to attend to the shapes and the horn at the same time, resulting in inaccuracies.
To make start signals easier to see, to improve the accuracy of the sequence timing and to make the bridge officer’s task easier, a Yacht Race Start Sequencer was developed.
The system comprises of two main components, namely the Signal Unit and the Control Box.
This is a 1000mm long alloy housing with ultra bright LEDs located at the top, centre and bottom. Three LEDs are used at location, each rated at 160 Lumen. The top set is for the Warning signal and is Red in colour. The bottom set is for the Preparatory signal and is Green. The centre set is for the Recall signal and is white. Importantly, besides being bright enough to be seen 1km away in full sunlight, the LEDs have a 60 degree beam width, enabling the entire start area to be covered
The housing also incorporates 4 air horns and a 12v compressor. Start signals can be heard at the outer end of the start line.
The signal unit is strapped to a pole with a black shade net back drop to reduce the effects of vehicle and other reflections. A cable connects the signal unit to the Control Box and a 12v vehicle battery.
A small portable console houses a digital clock, micro controller and relays to activate the lights and horns. The clock runs independently off its own internal battery and is used to indicate to the race officer when to initiate the start sequence and to record competing yacht race times.
In practice, the race officer presses a button 5 minutes before the start time. This initiates the Warning period, activating a horn and illuminating the Red Warning light. From this point onwards, the whole sequence up to the start is automatic and very accurately timed. The race officer just has to observe.
Four minutes before the start, the Green Preparatory light is illuminated as well, with another horn blast. One minute before the start, the Green Preparatory light is extinguished, with a horn blast. At the Start, the Red Warning light is extinguished with a final horn blast.
Facilities are provided for individual and general recalls, the latter initiating an automatic restart 10 minutes after the race officer signaled a general recall. Lamp test and reset functions are also provided.
The unit obtains its power from a 12v vehicle battery. Relays switch power to the signal lights and the horns.
Before the race briefing, ensure that the clock slide switch is set to CLOCK and then set the clock using the HR, MIN and SEC buttons according to GPS or mobile network time. The clock runs on an internal AA battery with 2 year life. Take the console to the briefing, so that skippers can set their time to this master clock.
Skippers should be reminded of the 5 minute start sequence and that they will observe a lamp test sequence well before the start time and should not be confused by this.
Fix the light assembly to the start line pole, with the light marked Warning, uppermost. Plug in the two connectors to the rear of the console. Connect the two battery clips to a 12v car battery. To reduce glare towards the start line, park the vehicle as far away from the lights as possible and at 90 degrees to the start line.
If you reverse the polarity, the unit will not be damaged, but it will not work until corrected. Note that when the horn sounds, the system will draw over 16 amps.
For best results, hang black shade netting behind the light box.
Once power is applied, the Blue Status LED will be ON. Well before the race start, press Lamp Test. Check that the three lights and the horn sequence briefly. Note that all button presses need only be a short firm press. The logic will ensure that the horn sounds for the correct period, however long the button is pressed. Ensure that the Individual Restart toggle switch is down, towards the operator. Until the Warning button is presses, the steady ON state of the Blue LED, indicates “idle period”. The horn function is active during the idle period.
Warning: The LED lights emit approximately 500 Lumen each and may cause eye damage if looking at them straight on at close distance. Also the 4 horns could cause temporary hearing discomfort if close by. Please warn bystanders to stand well away.
At exactly 5 minutes before the start, press the Warning button.
The Blue Status LED will start flashing, the Warning LED will illuminate, the top Red Warning light will illuminate and the horn will make a short sound.
Normally no further action is required of the operator.
At 4 minutes before the start, the Preparatory LED will illuminate and the bottom Green Preparatory light will illuminate as well. The horn will make a short sound.
At 1 minute before the start, the Preparatory LED and the bottom Green Preparatory light will extinguish and there will be a long sound.
Now the operator needs to sight along the line, from the pole to the furthermost bouy of the start line.
At the start, the Warning LED and the top Red Warning light will extinguish and there will be a long sound. The Status LED now goes to fast flash for one minute.
During the 1 minute After Start period, whilst the Blue Status LED is in fast flash mode, one of two recall sequences can be initiated:
If one or a few boats are prematurely over the line before the start, and can be identified, flick the Individual Restart switch upwards. The Restart LED will illuminate and the Blue Status LED will make a one-blip flash, continuously. The horn will make short sound and the central White light will indicate Recall by flashing continuously. When all affected boats have crossed back to the pre-start side of the line, the operator must flick the toggle switch back down, and the flashing stops.
If a number of boats prematurely cross the line and they cannot be identified, or there has been an error in the start procedure, then the operator presses the General Restart button. The horn will sound twice, the Restart LED will illuminate, the Blue Status LED will begin two-blip flashes and the central White light will illuminate continuously for 4 minutes. One minute after this spot light extinguishes, the Red Warning light automatically illuminates with one horn sound, indicating a completely automatic new start sequence, ie 5 minutes to go to a new Start.
Note that this new start time will be up to 60 seconds later than 10 minutes after the first Start, due to the reaction time of the operator when pressing the General Restart button. It is this important to write down the new start time.
Race period & finish
Once the one minute After Start period has elapsed, the controller reverts to Idle mode, and the Blue LED illuminates continuously. The horn may now be activated as each boat finishes by a depressing the Siren button,
Write down each boat’s finish time according to the controller’s clock.
At any time, should any sequences be accidentally started, the Reset button should be pressed, returning the controller to Idle mode.