Dot watch­ing: con­fes­sions of a desk­top ad­ven­turer

By Paul Gru­ber

Outer Edge - - Contents -

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.­world­ r g

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