Before You Begin
Signals has been designed to work on many different devices including iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets and computers running Microsoft, Apple or Linux operating systems. It depends on a modern browser being installed – you will have problems if you are using an out-of-date browser as it will not support the environment Signals needs.
Signals is “progressive web app” or PWA which is a new technology that can run or a variety of phones and computers and does not need to be downloaded from an app store. To install it, you simply click on a link and open the Signals page in a browser and then add it to your desktop or home screen.
Most phone/tablet browsers have a “Add To Home Screen” option to let you use Signals like any other app. On a laptop, the Chrome browser has an “Add To Desktop” option in the “More tools…” menu. Here’s some pages that explain this in detail:
Windows 10 – using Chrome, open the Signals page and then choose “More Tools…” from the three-dot menu on the right-hand top corner of Chrome. Then choose “Add to desktop…”. In the small window that opens, tick the box “Open as window” and then click “Add”.
A special feature of PWAs is that – unlike other web pages – they work offline. This is obviously important in a race hut or on a committee boat where you cannot be sure there will be any internet service.
Test The Volume
The sound signals themselves are just played through the normal sound system of your device. To make them loud enough for a race, you will probably need an external speaker and amplifier (or perhaps a bluetooth speaker for training races).
If you want to test the volume of the signals, there is a “hoot” button in the top right of the app which can be used. It is used in a race to make extra (out of sequence) sound signals for general recalls, individual recalls and shorten course.
The first screen that appears when Signals opens is “signal control”. Here you tell the app the basic information about the start signals you want. It needs to know when the first start is, how many starts there are for that race (many club races have starts for different classes, for example) and what the start sequence should be. You can ignore courtesy signals – they make a “beep” sound to count down the last few seconds before the start and most clubs do not use them.
Set the start time (24 hour clock) unless you have selected “Now”.
Today vs Tomorrow vs Now
The “Tomorrow” option is only really useful if you are scheduling a start just after midnight. So most of the time leave this on “Today”.
If you wish to start a race countdown immediately, choose the “Now” option. The first signal in the sequence will be sounded within a couple of seconds.
Number Of Starts
This is used when the race consists of more than one start (different class starts, for example). The time between starts is set by the sequence chosen in “Start Signals”.
in the UK, most clubs use either a ten minute sequence or the newer five minute sequence. In each case, there is normally an overlap in the signals because the first start signal is also a warning signal for the next start. Both sequenecs have starts that are five minutes apart. However Signals allows custom sequences to be defined, so if you need to change a sequence or set a default sequence you can do that using the “Setup” button (bottom, left).
Most clubs do not use courtesy signals, so do not worry if you have not heard of them. Courtesy signals countdown the last few seconds with a “beep” (rather than a “hoot”) every second. This makes it easier for those racing to time their starts even without looking at a watch. You can design your own sequence using the “Setup” button if you like.
The Start Countdown button switches the display to the countdown screen and sets the clock ticking. You can stop and start the countdown even in the middle of the sequence if you need to.
There are four coloured timing squares to show the status of the countdown. The top line has the time of the next signal (any signal, including courtesy signals) and the next start time. The next line has the time left before the start (a useful square – race officers are often asked “how long to the start?”) and the time of the last start.
The Add Extra Start button puts another start on the end of the sequence and you will see the Last Start time change. Note that this button does not trigger extra sound signals. If you wish to indicate a general recall you can use the Hoot button (top right) twice to do this, or use Hoot once for individual recalls. If you have only one start, you may decide to stop the countdown altogether for a period of time rather than add in an extra start immediately – that is the race officer’s decision.
After The Last Start
If there are no more signals after the last start, all the timing squares will return to zero and you can use the Exit Countdown button to go back to the Signal Control screen. In some types of sequences (such as pursuit races) there may be further signals after the start. In this case the Next Signal timing square will indicate the time for the next signal but the Next Start will show zero.
At the end of Setup Start Signals and Setup Courtesy Signals sections you can set the default sequence. When you save a new default, the box for that sequence on the first page (Signal Control) shows that sequence, making it clear and convenient for the next time it is used.
You can change all three start signal sequences and both courtesy signal sequences in Setup. Each sequence must start with a negative number. The numbers refer to “minutes before the start” for start signals and “seconds before the start” for courtesy signals. A start signal sequence MUST have a zero in it (to indicate the start) and the courtesy signals sequence must NOT have a zero in it as you would not sound a courtesy Beep at the same time as the starting Hoot.
You can use decimal places (for example 3.5) to indicate half a minute. This is only really useful for pursuit races where you may want to have a start followed by more signals for the different classes starting behind the slowest boats. So -10,-5,0,3.5 is a valid sequence to sound hoots at ten and five minutes before the start and three minutes and thirty seconds after the start.
Anything other than a number will not be allowed in a sequence.
The “Enable Voice” setting switches on or off a button named “Speak” at the bottom right of Signals. When you press “Speak” your voice is sent to the speakers from the microphone so you can make announcements. You can press “Speak” again to turn off the microphone. This is labelled an experimental feature as testing suggests it does not work the same on all devices. On some phones, the volume is turned down significantly when you use the Speak button.
Use this feature if it works well on your device. If it does not, a future update may improve the way this works across devices.
Saving New Settings
When you save settings in the Setup page they are stored locally on your device. If you clear the local storage in your browser, you will remove any saved settings and Signals will use its own defaults again. This applies to phones or computers.