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SOUTHAMPTON, England -- The concept of rogue waves has been widely written about but as yet no one has ever been able to accurately measure wave height; until now, analysis has been done using satellite images. The upcoming Volvo Ocean Race is due to change it all as the eight participating boats are equipped with highly sensitive wave height measuring devices.

Satellites have created a stadium in the sky, which gives a global view to everyone following the progress of the Volvo Ocean Race around the world.

Pictures, voice and e-mail information will be beamed back from all the boats as they race against each other on each of the nine legs of the 32,700-mile event. Using the same technology, the management team at race headquarters, situated between Southampton and Portsmouth on the South coast of England, can monitor the yachts every mile of the way. It is the first point of contact for any yacht needing further help or information.

All the yachts are equipped with a wide range of sensors to allow the remote viewer to get a real impression about what is happening out there. This aim does not only include standard data such as boat and wind speed, temperature and course. It even explores new ways to get information that was always speculated about: The actual size of waves, which will be measured.

Swedish company "Pilotfish'' has devised a revolutionary new moveable wave height reader. The device will constantly measure wave height between 0-130 metres from sensors built in to the eight competing yachts. A small "Seakey'' computer will be housed in the yachts that constantly interfaces with the sensors. Via Satcom-C the data will be sent constantly to Race HQ, situated near Southampton, UK.

Race HQ is manned 24 hours a day while the yachts are at sea. They send weather information to the fleet on a regular basis and by the use of a "ping'' device, they can locate the exact position of each one at any time. This is the basis of the four, six-hourly reports, which are sent out each day giving the positions of each yacht. Current speed, average speed for the last six hours, and the direction in which the yacht is heading are all part of the additional data.

Position data from every 10 minutes over the last 6 hours is the backbone for the revolutionary race viewer from Virtual Spectator (VS), a world leader in 3D animation products for both television and the Internet. Already used in football, golf, cricket, motor sport and sailing sporting events. The Volvo Ocean Race will be the first VS product to have an audio-based commentary. "We will be receiving audio files from the fleet every 12 hours, combining these with clips of 3D simulation of the same period will provide a unique narration of the race,'' says Craig Meek of VS.

All of that appears in the regular updates on the race website, whose address is www.volvooceanrace.org.

About the Volvo Ocean Race

The Volvo Ocean Race will start from Southampton, England on September 23rd 2001. This professionally crewed event will cover 32,700 nm in approximately ten months, circumnavigating the world with the prevailing winds. The nine-leg race will visit 10 ports, racing through four oceans, and finish in Kiel, Germany in June 2002. The race is jointly owned and sponsored by Volvo Car Corporation and The Volvo Group.

SOURCE: Volvo Ocean Race
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