What exactly am I doing?

A couple of people have asked what it is exactly that I am working on.
Well at the Skandia Cowes Week 2004 wrap up party my Father-in-law talked about his plan for a completely automated course setting process, something that I’d also been thinking about for a couple of years too.  It had been pie in the sky, and to be honest was, with any sort of reasonable budget, still so when we were discussing it.  To give you an idea as to why we wanted to do this I’ll give a brief overview of how things work on a typical race day during Cowes Week.
There are over 1000 boats and over 8000 sailors, split amongst 38 classes divided into two groups based on size.  Starting at 11:00 there is a class starting every 5 mins for a minimum of 3 hours.  For each class a course has to be designed selecting from 100+ buoys; this course is based on the size of the boats in the class, the weather and tidal conditions, the time and course length preferences of the class, and avoiding any conflicts with other classes that might be sailing around the same mark at the same time, and especially making sure classes don’t go around buoys in different directions. 
Can you imagine the chaos if 30-40 15ft day boats were going around a mark at the same time as the big boat classes which are 60ft+ is length?  Now imagine what would happen if they were going in opposite directions…
…Now imagine that the system for preventing this relied on 5 dog leads, a large chart of the solent and some screws to represent the buoys…
So I (with a great deal of help from my wife) spent evenings, weekends and holidays for 12 months writing a computerised replacement to this system, and other than a few issues in the first couple of days of Skandia Cowes Week 2005, it worked.  My proudest moment of the entire week was when I realised that the prediction algorithm my wife and I had spent a solid week of 10 hour days perfecting was consistently accurate to within 30seconds over 5+ hours of sailing…
…You can’t do that with a bit of string 😉
(Jenny has just reminded me that on occasions where the weather predictions were spot on we had predictions to within a second)

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