“World First” Starting System

New Zealanders are known for their innovation and this story is a unique story about innovation at the start line of races. In the mid 1980s two men created the world’s first race starting system which was used at rowing regattas at Lake Karapiro. These men were Brian Clarke and Brian Parr
This system they designed managed the starter lights and camera. The design of the system was carried out by Brian Clarke, who was an electrical engineer and Brian Parr who worked with Brian to implement the system at Karapiro. The two Brian’s devoted hours of voluntary time and their own funds to create the system.
The mechanical system consisted of starting lights for each lane connected via cable to a starter switch box in the Starter’s hut. The switch box was also connected to a camera. When the Starter called “Attention” the red light would light up and the camera would activate. On the hooter the green light would come on and the camera would take a photo of the start line up (to see if anyone was going ahead of the start hooter).
When the FISA officials came to New Zealand to prepare for the 2010 World Championships they acknowledged the starting system with the camera integrated as world leading and quite unique.
This system started races for over 30 years. About ten years ago this clever design was converted to an electronic system by Omron assisted by input from Brian Parr.
So when you next sit at the start of a race, it is worth reflecting on the innovation and commitment of these two men who made the starting process more professional.
Brian Parr
Brian Clarke