About Us - Sure-Path GPS Boat Lane Tracking

Boat Lane Tracking
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About Us & Acknowledgements

In the Beginning
Sure-Path's inventor and founder, James Timothy, graduated as a physicist and then joined the British Broadcasting Corporation, initially as a sound engineer, and later became a videotape editor (in the days when VT editors had to also be broadcast engineeers to make the equipment work). In the early '90s, VT editing became more and more computerised and he started working in his own time on software to help with some of the resulting problems. This led on to tape libraries, shot logging systems (he developed and provided the logging system for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games) and eventually sports scoring & graphics systems for ESPN Star Sports based in Singapore. Systems were developed for Football (Soccer), Summer X Games, 9-Ball Pool and Tennis, amongst others. Also during this time, use of GPS for tracking mobile TV cameras and even measuring the "distance to pin" in golf was investigated but not fully realised.

The Birth of Sure-Path
James retired from full time work in the broadcasting industry in 2018. His home club, Rickmansworth Water Ski Club in the UK, wanted to homologate its slalom course but the cost of a traditional Total Station was daunting. At about the same time, James noticed that the GPS receiver chips used for an advanced form of GPS (RTK GPS) were coming down significantly in price, largely driven by the drone market. Two such receiver chips (base and rover) could be purchased for considerably less than the cost of a Total Station. He decided that this was going to be a fun retirement project!

Three months later, with a basic homologation system working, James attended an Officials Seminar in the UK to show off his work to the TCs (homologators) present. At the end of the day, a couple of drivers came up and asked, if he could map a buoy's location to a precision of plus or minus 2cm, could he also track the boat's position to the same degree of accuracy as it went down the slalom course? Although perhaps an obvious question, the idea hadn't even occurred to James at the time. Also the first receivers he had purchased for development would not retain full accuracy at speeds above about 10kph. However, some new receiver chips had just come onto the market a month earlier and James already had a couple on order. The new receivers turned out to be in a different league in terms of performance and speed and could easily retain full Fix Mode with the boat going at the maximum 58kph.

A week later, James had a working demo, tracking a boat through the slalom course. Sure-Path was born and things went manic pretty much straight away!

Sure-Path could not have developed and progressed as fast as it did without a great deal of help and support along the way. There are too many people to mention them all but the following have made special contributions:

Robin Nichols MBE (1933-2020): Robin was a very well known and respected homologator in the UK and was also very involved in Adaptive water skiing, being instrumental in the founding of the British Disabled Water Ski Association. When Robin first saw James' early attempts at a homologation system he was in his late '80s but, being an engineer and pilot, was immediately excited by the prospect of better technology coming into the sport. He gave invaluable advice and support in the very, very early days but sadly left us in September 2020. It is not an exaggeration to say that Sure-Path would not be where it is today without him.

Steve Glanfield: Steve owns and runs the Oxford Wakeboard and Ski Club in the UK. From the word go, Steve believed in the technology, so much so that he became Sure-Path's first paying customer. He then went on to make his expertise and his club available for exhaustive testing and development. Elite skiers such as Freddie Winter, Tom Poole and Arron Davies are regulars at the site and so the development environment could not have been better. Steve also enthusiastically promoted Sure-Path in Florida in the early days of development.  As "autotracking" comes nearer to reality, OWSC will be the test site of choice.

Jamie Bloemsma: Jamie owns and runs the 4 Lakes Waterski School in the UK. Without ever having seen Sure-Path work, he allowed its use at his site for the first time under tournament conditions. It is only under rigorous conditions that a system shows up all its flaws and a lot was learned that day.

Donal Connolly: Donal is best known for being the producer of the SplashEye jump measurement system (and more recently Splash Eye Drive BPMS and the new eyeTrick software) and as such has given many insights into the workings of the water skiing community/market. He also set up the WaterskiConnect messaging server through which Sure-Path and other software systems such as scoring, can communicate with each other using a unified protocol. This alone has increased the benefits and useability of Sure-Path ten fold.

Will Bush: Will needs no introduction to the international waterskiing community as one of the world's foremost boat drivers but is also no mean skier, winning his age category at the 2022 Worlds. He also chairs the IWWF/Pan-Am Drivers' Committee and the USA Waterski Towboat Committee. Will first experienced Sure-Path along with another RTK GPS system in September 2019 at the AWSA Tow Boat Trials. Since that time, he has been an invaluable source of knowledge and advice.

George Lindy: Like Will Bush, George first saw Sure-Path at the 2019 AWSA Tow Boat Trials and has always been an invaluable source of knowledge and advice.

Jerry Jackson: Jerry chairs the USAWS Tech Committee and it is probably fair to say that he was somewhat sceptical of the technology in the early days. However, once he had seen what a boat lane tracking system could do to help driver development, he became a true fan. He is also the most exhaustive, rigorous tester on the planet. His feedback has been and continues to be invaluable.

Damien Ackerer: Damien owns and runs the DAMS Watersports ski school in the UK. He bravely allowed one of his boats to be vandalised and fitted with the first autotracking prototype which turned out to be an unqualified "proof of concept" success.

Malcolm Stirling: Malcolm is a member of Rickmansworth Water Ski Club and very kindly donated his time and artistic flair in designing the Sure-Path logo. He has also designed a T-shirt or two! www.theteecat.com

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