Simon Briscoe

Feeding ‘the Beast’ helps sailors

As soon as the New Zealand sailing team take to the water at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Enoshima – a computer nicknamed “The Beast” more than 8500 kilometres away at High Performance Sport New Zealand in Auckland, will be playing a key support role.

Using GPS tracking, HPSNZ Performance and Technique Analyst Simon Briscoe and his team will crunch the numbers and provide rapid fire race reports to coaches and athletes as well as pick up on key information to support New Zealand athletes in the event of a protest.

“What we provide is to hopefully protect the power of performance and make sure it is not derailed by any curve balls,” explains Simon of the team’s role.

The computer set up at Auckland’s HPSNZ headquarters has evolved since the last Olympic cycle to provide far more detailed race data.

Officially named the Bespoke Analysis System – AKA ‘The Beast’ – the computer uses the GPS tracking on the boats to provide a whole suite of metrics from how far back the boat was at the start line to the speed of the boat on certain points on the course.

Coupled with this, the team have designed their own set of metrics to provide an even more accurate picture of the race.

The race report put together by Simon and his team will be sent shortly after each race to the coaches and athletes.

“What we try and do is create a good factual picture of the race, which can easily enable them to pick out the key points of the race.”

“We endeavour to ensure that by the time the coach and the athlete have got back to the boat ramp and out of their wet suits that the information is in their inbox ready for the de-brief.”

The other area where “The Beast” can potentially aid the sailors is in the form of any potential protests. Simon and his team will be paying close attention to any potential rules infractions through the GPS tracking or via broadcast footage.

Liaising with the New Zealand Rules Officer, who will be on the ground in Tokyo, this will ensure the New Zealand sailing contingent will be well resourced with key information to support their case in the event of a protest.

“Technology has taken a big step forward on how we can distribute that information,” he says. “For example, we can put together a video clip of an incident within 10 minutes and send that to Japan.

“In maybe two out of every three cases it might come to nothing, but at least we have that information should we need it. This is my fourth Olympic campaign and I know my past experiences that on several occasions the outcome of a protest has affected medal results.”

Simon says he has also been impressed by the athletes and coaches within the New Zealand programme and how they have fully embraced “The Beast.”

“There are range of athletes and coaches between those who love the raw data versus others who prefer more on feel,” he adds. “However, over the course of the last Olympic cycle we’ve seen the uptake of the race reports steadily improve to the point where it is generally accepted standard practice – which is awesome.”