A Drone’s Eye View of College Sailing

The ICSA was an early adopter of drones for live streaming its national championships in 2014.
A Drone’s Eye View of College Sailing Chris Love

At the annual college sailing winter meeting, John Vandemoer, head coach for Stanford University, and Tyler Colvin, assistant coach at Old Dominion University, presented on drone use and policy. “It’s a pretty open policy and it essentially gives some guidelines of use,” Vandemoer says. “For example, there is a maximum of two drones allowed on a racecourse at a time. You have to ask the regatta host whether you can fly a drone at their venue and it’s up to the host to decide and the policy also gives the host some guidelines to help make that decision.

“We are trying not to put too many restrictions on the use of drones so that we don’t paint ourselves into a corner because it’s all really new,” he explains. “We will learn a lot in the next five years and things will change as drones become more popular.”

Roger Williams University and MIT, as well as Stanford and Old Dominion sailing teams were early adopters of drone use. “We tried to get on the train as early as possible,” Colvin says. “I think Mitch [Brindley] saw the value of the technology from a coaching standpoint right away, and I ran with it. As an early adopter, I’ve tried to help educate as many people as possible. It’s such a new technology that everyone has questions about it and I’ve done my best to be as supportive as I can for those wanting to know more about drones.”


Vandemoer is ­enthusiastic about the technology’s entry as a tool in sailing. “It’s the best view for almost anything,” he says. “It’s a view for our sport that is unparalleled. It’s huge to see everything from sail set up, boathandling to big race‑course tactics.”

The drone conversation came up before last spring’s college sailing nationals where it was the first time there was a hospitality tent set up showing live coverage of the racing from a drone.

“It was a good place for parents to sit and have a refreshment and watch the racing, and we can do it at a fraction of the cost,” Vandemoer explains. Coaches also have been using drone footage on social media and sharing it with media departments to help promote the sport of sailing.


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“At the Aaron Szambecki Team Race last year, we brought an iPad down to the dock for every rotation so that we could show the sailors the playback from that race,” Vandemoer says. “So, it was just like we were on the NFL sideline.” Fairness also has come up as a concern with using drones. Not all of the teams have them, but the solution so far has been to share footage.

“We have a Google Share Drive that we upload video to after each event, so that everyone at the regatta has access to it,” Vandemoer explains. “We also ask coaches at regattas if they want to watch the drone footage with us, send the video around or Airdrop the screen-record footage onto their phones. We don’t mind sharing — we just want to make sure we have the footage.”


Fall 2018 Final Rankings

01 Yale 240
02 Hobart & William Smith 219
03 Georgetown 218
04 Bowdoin 186
05 Brown 181
06 Boston College 165
07 Charleston 160
08 Harvard 159
09 MIT 141
10 Stanford 135
01 Brown 240
02 Yale 226
03 MIT 192
04 Boston College 187
05 Cornell 187
06 Hobart & William Smith 181
07 Boston University 171
08 Dartmouth 157
09 Pennsylvania 142
10 Charleston 133
Race Team Backback
Gill 2019 Race Team Back Pack Courtesy of Gill

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