Let’s Talk Numbers

Posted on June 10, 2016 in General

Friday, June 10, 2016 – Race Day 6

WEATHER: Winds are expected to remain in the 28-30 knot range overnight, but shift off to the west early Saturday morning.  All crews north of Point Conception may experience wet and wild conditions, but relief is on its way, as the wind will continue to die off through Sunday into Monday.

The race standings shown at the end of each of these daily reports is taken at 16:00 (4pm) local time, each day for consistency.  This also allows us to do a little math regarding the relative progress of the crews as they make their way to Waikiki.

It’s incredible that from our armchairs we can see all the boats and we know where each crew is in relation to all of the others.  Our teams on the water do not have this same advantage.  Perhaps this is why when our race officers reach out to the crews, there are two questions that always come up first.  “How are you?” they ask the caller (we really have some very courteous crews out there) followed by “How are the other crews doing?”  The teams really have no idea how close or far they are from the other rowing boats.  For some of the less competitive crews the conversation may circle around how their fellow crews are doing to enjoy some of the tales that we share via this blog.  The more competitive crews however are (as you might expect) only interested in one thing – their position relative to other crews in the race.

Let’s talk a little about the numbers in the standings listed on the race leaderboard and how to interpret them.  The tracker gives us the number of Nautical Miles (NM) to the finish.   A Nautical Miles is slightly longer than a statute (normal) mile, 1 NM = 1.15 miles.  The distance to the finish is generated by drawing the shortest line possible from where the boats “ping” on the hour, to the finish line.  We are also told the total number of NM rowed since the start of the race.

One might think that the math of the equation is simple.  Subtract the number of NM rowed from the total distance of the race and you have your leading boat.  But not all crews row along the same straight line course and crews must row in the CORRECT DIRECTION (or toward the finish) to lead the race. This isn’t always possible due to wind, waves, currents, and underwater obstacles.  The shortest route from the start to the finish is displayed on the race tracker by the red line.  However, when it comes to ocean rowing the shortest route isn’t necessarily the quickest and it isn’t surprising to us that none of the crews are rowing along (or even anywhere near) to this shortest route.  In the 2014 edition of the race, crews on average rowed an extra 350 NM more than the shortest route and there’s no reason to expect anything different this year.  This is in large part to the wind which blows strongly out of the North and North West towards the start of the race before gradually clocking around behind the crews by about a third of the way through the race.  This predominant wind pattern forces any ocean rowing boat to row in a curve, only intersecting with the red line at the very start and the very end of the race.

Lets take this a step further, and compare Uniting Nations to Moana Uli and how they performed over the last 24 hours.  Uniting Nations rowed the most NM in the past 24 hours with an impressive 70 NM added to their log.  Moana Uli rowed 54 NM.  However, 59% of the time, Moana Uli was rowing in a more direct path to the finish line than Uniting Nations, at only 54% of the time.  What this means is that Uniting Nations took 38 NM off the distance to the finish line, while Moana Uli, rowing fewer miles, took off 32 NM to the finish. Moana Uli were rowing on a better / more accurate course.

All speeds of the crews shown on the race tracker are in knots.  A knot is one NM per hour and is a measurement which is shrouded in nautical history.  Originally it was known as a chip log and relied on knots which were tied at uniform intervals in a length of rope and then one end of the rope, with a slice of wood (chip) attached to it, was tossed behind the vessel.  As the vessel moved forward, the rope was paid out freely for a specific amount of time.  Afterward, the number of knots that had gone over the vessel’s stern were counted and used in calculating the vessel’s speed.  Thankfully neither we nor our crews need to reply on hourglasses, chip and knotted line to monitor the speed of our crews as GPS systems have made all of this redundant.  Thank goodness!

Every day on the ocean is different, and today most crews are facing the strongest and most aggressive weather they have yet faced.  Stay tuned as the seas are about to get rough for our crews.  We are still in the very early days of the race – not even a week in.  Some crews may take to the oars trying to make the best of the conditions, accepting that their course may take them further away from the shortest route before they are able to turn more towards Hawaii.  Whereas other crews may be more cautious and spend periods off the oars whilst heavy weather blows through.  We will learn more about the tactics our crews are deploying over the next days of stronger weather.

GREAT PACIFIC RACE STANDINGS as of 4:00 pm PDT today
1 Uniting Nations: ROWING – 1862 NM to finish, Rowed 355 NM
2 Moana Uli: ROWING – 1884 NM to finish, Rowed 304 NM
3 Team Ocean Hearts: ROWING – 1937 NM to finish, Rowed 271 NM
4 Endurance Limits: ROWING – 1970 NM to finish, Rowed 228 NM
5 Sons of the Pacific: ROWING – 1973 NM to finish, Rowed 207 NM
6 Endurance Limits USA: ROWING – 1980 NM to finish, Rowed 168 NM
7 Row Aloha: ROWING – 1987 NM to finish, Rowed 174 NM
8 Fight the Kraken: ROWING – 1988 NM to finish, Rowed 204 NM