Sunday, January 27, 2013

New mounts for the SPOT trackers

Good morning from nippy Two Rivers, Alaska, where the thermometer on my front porch is reading -60F.  This seems like a good opportunity for a shout-out and a "Have a great run!" to Abbie West and Allen Moore, neighbors here in Two Rivers who will soon be leaving for Whitehorse to run this year's Quest.

As those who've been following the race know, there have been reliability issues around SPOT trackers during the race in the past, and people have been talking for some time about how best to mount them so that they'll stay on the sled if the sled barrel rolls or smacks into a large object, and so that there can't be plausible claims that someone accidentally turned off tracking or that a large sheet of aluminum dropped out of the sky and covered the antenna.  So race manager Alex Oleson has designed a SPOT tracker mount based on an original design by four-time Quest champion Hans Gatt, and the mount is now riveted to the sled on or near the brushbow.  Here's a photo of one mounted on rookie Rob Cooke's sled:

and a photo by Sebastian Schnuelle of one being drilled for mounting at the vet check yesterday in Whitehorse:

In the past, trackers have been put in booties and pinned to the front of the sled bag.  It hasn't always worked well (you may remember Hugh Neff losing his tracker coming off Eagle Summit) and there have been some issues with teams arriving at checkpoints with the trackers off.  This should be a big help.

Because of what I do for a living I've become wired to look at things and try to figure out what can go wrong or how to get around whatever protections they provide.  With the new mounts, aside from people being less than thrilled to have their sled drilled through, there may be a potential problem with the metal interfering with the radio in the SPOT 2 devices, which have had some reliability problems.  But overall this looks like a substantial improvement and I doubt there will be interference issues.

I'll be curious to see how they work out on the trail.

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