Stopwatch timing is simple and effective, but it is not highly accurate, and it does not produce live results.

The System

This is is a manual timing system consisting of:Seiko S143 Stopwatch

  • a stopwatch
  • a process for identifying when a competitor crosses the line
  • a system for entering the times into a results computer and calculating the results.


A type of stopwatch needs to be selected from the list of suitable stopwatches. The key factors for a stopwatch are:

  • Whether it is certified for accuracy. Most are not.
  • The number of times stored: up to 400+ for a large race..
  • Whether times can be exported to a PC.

You can see in the table that the watch that best matches the criteria is the TAG-Heuer HL400.

The stopwatches are designed to record the split or lap times of an individual competitor. However in the case of a Head race each split time can represent the time of a different boat, provided that a note is made of which split time belongs to which boat.

The stopwatches are started before the race, using a mechanical device to press all Start buttons simultaneously. They record elapsed time from the time they are started. Each time the Split button is pressed a time is displayed and stored in memory.

It is very important not to stop the watch accidentally. The watch only records elapsed time from starting and does not record the time of day. If the watch is turned off and on again, it will resume at the time it left off. Spare watches can be used in case this happens, although this will slightly impair the accuracy of the timing.

At the end of the race the stopwatch can be stopped and turned off. Times are retained in memory until cleared.


A consistent line is determined by marking both ends of the line with a post. A boat starts or finishes when its bow is seen to emerge past the post in front of the timer. Consistent timing is obtained by reacting to the bow of the boat emerging from behind the post, in the same way that Athletics timekeepers react to the gun and to a competitor crossing the finish line.

At each timing point a team work together to take times and assign them to the right boat. A Spotter identifies the boats as they approach the line. A Watch operator presses the button when a boat crosses the line. A Clerk or Scribe writes down the boat number corresponding to each memory recall number on the watch.

Recall Crew
1 3
2 1
3 4


At the Finish only, a separate Sequencer writes down the sequence of boats finishing, independent of the timers.

A separate team operates a backup stopwatch.

To provide a verification of the boat identity a video or web camera can be used. The camera can be stationed at a different angle if necessary, or on the opposite bank. The camera is not used for times.

The time of each split can be written down on paper, but writing down the times can introduce errors. The reason for writing down the times is: to start entering times before the race is finished (for example for each category); or to guard against failure of the watch (for example by accidentally pressing and holding the Clear button). Writing down the times can introduce errors because of:

  • the difficulty of writing the times when there is a group of finishers
  • errors in getting the written times into the computer.
Recall Time Crew
1 1:17:56.53 3
2 1:17:58.28 1
3 1:18:02.41 4


For this reason the recommended method is not to write down times (although a very expeienced timing team may be confident enough to do it). Times are uploaded from the stopwatch at the end of the race, and matched to the boat numbers from the timing sheets. This obviously means that times are not available until after the race.

Entering times

After the race, times are uploaded to a spreadsheet or to results software.

The timing or sequence sheets need to be typed in and matched to the times that have been uploaded from the watch. Times are in seconds and hundredths since the watch started. Start and Finish times need to be subtracted, and then the timing data needs to be converted into minutes, seconds and tenths. It is easiest if a spreadsheet has already been prepared to do the calculations.

The sequences from the Finish Sequencer and from the Finish backup watch need to be compared to the primary timers. If the sequences are the same then the times are correct. If the sequences are different then the differences need to be investigated and accounted for.

Penalties and handicaps need to be applied after the raw results have been produced.