Do you know how beach sand affects sports timing?

 In Timing Lessons

Beach sand is formed from erosion processes in oceans; the water takes millions of years to break up rocks and shells, turning them into particles between 0.063 and 2 mm in size. They may be composed of silicates (minerals with quartz), carbonates of inorganic origin or of biogenic fragments (CaCO3 like limestone), volcanic rocks…

These compositions are not usually electrical conductors. A priori, we might think that if it isn’t a conductor, it won’t affect sports timing. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Pure water, H2O, doesn’t conduct electricity. But as soon as salts are added to it, it becomes a conductor. Therefore, we could say that sea water is a conductor without going into the details of what type of conductivity it has. Therefore, wet beach sand has a certain degree of conductivity. If we have wet sand on our timing antennas, not only will we not be able to get a good reading, but it might end up interfering with the RFID reader because a large quantity of the power emitted will go back to it because it is not transmitted.

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Furthermore, although dry sand is not a conductor, it affects the chip reader just as other non-conductive materials do. This effect can range from medium to high.
We conducted a study on the beach of various cases that can occur in any triathlon or open water swimming event and we grouped and ordered them from highest to lowest impact on the chip readers. We took the Timing Sense cable grommets and antennas as our reference. Other timing systems will be equally affected, especially by sand on the equipment, but they will be affected differently.

chip timing and sand

How dry or wet sand affects the antenna and cable grommet

The cases that have practically no effect on sports timing equipment reading and performance are shown in green.
The cases that affect the timing equipment but that would still allow it to function with attention to possible chip reader losses are shown in yellow.
The cases that make sports timing impossible are shown in red. Remember that they are ordered by the degree they affect timing from most to least.

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Conclusions:

Wet sand affects timing more than dry sand but even dry sand can impede the performance of the timing equipment. Where it affects it most is on top of the equipment. This is logical because the antennas used in timing based on UHF technology usually have a ground plane on the bottom so that soil composition doesn’t affect things too much. Those who have used low or high frequency sports timing systems in near field know what I’m talking about and what poor soil can affect. I talked about this in a previous post.
In view of the above, our recommendation is that if you are going to do sports timing in sandy conditions, use side antennas like the ones we sell with the Triathlon Pack, or get yourself a good broom. 🙂
I hope you’ve enjoyed it and I invite you to ask me questions; you can ask them here on the post or privately to: info@timingsense.com

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