Dot watching: confessions of a desktop adventurer
By Paul Gruber
In the past, when heading out for an adventure to explore places like our remote and unforgiving outback we left the high tech gadgets at home. More recently, lightweight handheld technologies have made this less likely. It started with satellite phones and mobile phones, quickly progressing to GPS and now might even include drones. For several years satellite tracker and messengers such as the SPOT and Yellow Brick have allowed an extra level of safety by providing the ability to call for assistance in an emergency as well as allowing followers to track your progress via web browser. The ability to track people in near real time from even the most remote locations on earth has allowed family, friends, sponsors as well as the general public to become more involved with expeditions than ever before.
Ocean yacht racing has utilised this technology successfully for many years allowing those on the shore or at home to watch the race unfold “tack by tack”. Offroad ra rally ra racec s use gps tracki king to track racers, but also enable them to send real time updates if conditions change. One other sport that has embraced the tracking technology in a way to bring the excitement to an audience is adventure racing. The ability for those at home to connect with the event as well as individual teams through “dot watching” has been a real drawcard for using the technology, coupled with the added ability for race directors to keep an eye on teams for safety purposes and them having an SOS button to press if things really do go pear shaped.
As a navigation based sport the “dot watching” takes on another attraction as the checkpoints that teams need to visit can be displayed on the topographic maps. It is not unusual in this sport for teams to be “navigationally challenged” in certain situations and with the dots updating locations every 5 minutes there isn’t much they don’t miss. The trackers show their every move, with the most entertainment derived from observing the alternative route choices teams take to reach each checkpoint. The “what are they doing” moments when they totally miss the checkpoint, by taking the wrong tracks, overshooting landscape features or circling round and round in a desperate attempt to find that red and white flag can result in viewers yelling at their screens. It turns what is one of the most spectator unfriendly sports into an entertaining, and addictive pastime while races are on.
The addition of social media has made commentary of the racing by “dot watchers” possible for those at home, making it very entertaining “viewing”. From a marketing perspective the stats are amazing with these races attracting tens of thousands of website hits from fans all over the world and long engagement times as they follow along with the adventure.
The XPD is a multi day adventure race and this year they hosted the Adventure Racing World Championships onaustralian shores in mid November. With the top class international field ( of over 90 teams) assembling in the Shoalhaven region on a challenging course there was some enthralling “dot watching” to be had over the 4- 8 non-stop days of racingr c ng whichc ch finished on the 18 November. The he ARWR live website had over 50,000 unique visitors from over 145 countries and those visitors averaged a browsing time of 7.5 minutes. With the live site still currently active, you can still replay the entire race and watch team Seagate take their historic third straight world championship title. Thankfully you can playback at a slightly faster speed than the 4 to 8 days it took teams to finish. http://live.arworldseries.com/arwc16/ r g