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Data metrics play key role in Volvo Ocean Race

It’s like “Moneyball” for ocean racing.

The art of statistical and data analysis that launched Billy Beane and Major League Baseball’s Oakland A’s to fame could be applied, in its own way, to the Volvo Ocean Race.

That’s according to SmartData Collective, a firm that tracks business and big data.

In the last four decades, the race has changed a lot. Since 2011, all teams have used identical 65-foot boats that are produced in the same shipyard.

That means the race comes down to two things –- true sailing skills and data analysis. And these days there are a lot of data. It was the data that helped Oracle Team USA come from behind to win the America’s Cup, writes Mark van Rijmenam.

“During the last America's Cup, Oracle Team USA used data from 300 sensors on the boat, as well as 3,000 variables that ran 10 times per second to win the Cup,”he wrote.

“This resulted in about 1 gigabyte of raw data per boat per day, as well as 200 gigabytes of video data that had to be analyzed,”he wrote. “All data was stored in a chase boat that would cater for the analytical hub, where algorithms would combine 10 to 30 different data sources to predict what might happen in the next seconds or hours.”

Several team members on the chase boat performed these real-time analytics. While one member, for example, was analyzing data from the wing and sail, other members looked at trends or were monitoring the different systems on board the boat.

All of the results from the data analysis were returned to [personal digital assistants] that each team member on the boat was wearing. These customized, real-time results offered great insights for each team member, based on the task at hand.”

During this Volvo Ocean Race, it is likely that more boats will follow the example from the America's Cup and have access to massive data streams and powerful big data analytics, van Rikmenam writes.

It therefore comes down to the analytical skills of the team that could make the difference.