Successful Phone Tracking

For tracking to be successful the phone where the app is installed needs three things (beyond being configured correctly):

1.  Power

The tracking app requires more battery than typical usage.  Depending on the phone type and age as well as the update settings on the tracking app (the more frequent the updates, the bigger the power drain), the battery can last from 3 hours to 8 hours before running out of power.  For short courses this is not an issue, but for longer races it’s advisable to connect the phone to ship’s power or use an external battery pack to ‘boost’ the charge.

2.  GPS signal

For good tracking results the phone should be placed with the least amount of boat between it and the sky.  Ideally, in the cockpit or attached to the stern pulpit in a waterproof case is best, but having the phone below deck can still provide good results so long as it”s in a location with the least hardware (eg winches, mast) directly above it.

3.  At least occasional cell phone signal

As long as there is intermittent cell phone signal the tracking app can upload it’s GPS coordinates.  During periods of no signal, GPS data is logged and then burst uploaded during time when the signal is re-established.  Like GPS signal, the mobile phone signal is best above deck and if below deck not located under a lot of equipment or hardware.  This becomes more important the farther offshore the yacht is racing.
A good solution for an above-deck tracking phone system is a battery booster and a waterproof case such as a Pelican case secured to the boat.  Pictured below is an example of a setup which has worked well during medium-distance races consisting of a Pelican 1020 or 1030 case and a PPCtechs AA-powered external phone battery booster.