Craig Wilson wasn’t always a timer. In fact, he got his start in timing by simply volunteering. For almost 30 years, Craig was an environmental scientist for the state of California where he proposed water quality standards and managed the state’s water quality monitoring program. In 2004, when his son was on the high school track team, he volunteered to learn how the school’s timing equipment worked. His first two races were timed with FinishLynx. From there, he was hooked. Three years later he created Red Cap Timing, and he’s since created a web app called TimerHub.
We recently talked to Craig about Red Cap Timing, his IPICO set up and how to communicate with race directors, coaches and spectators.
Tell us a little about Red Cap Timing.
Red Cap started in 2007. My son had graduated but I still wanted to time. I received many requests from local schools to time youth, high school and college events, and realized there might be a business opportunity. Red Cap Timing was started to provide timing and results that are accurate, quick and transparent. We provide timing and results management from the San Francisco Bay area to the Sierra Nevada foothills. Depending on the event, we send up to four timing staffers to time races or meets. The difference between Red Cap and the competition is that we keep downtime between races to a minimum, can be flexible on entries/seeding, and provide results very quickly to runners and spectators.
In 2016, Red Cap will time nearly 60 events. In 2009, we expanded our business into cross country and road races. At first we applied our track timing experience to these events but could only handle small events. In 2010, we started chip timing with a single IPICO Lite. Our timing business doubled in size and income when we started chip timing.
You’ve been with and using IPICO products since 2010. What changes have you seen over the years and where do you see the timing products headed in the future?
For me, the biggest advancement over the past few years has been the disposable bib tag and the subsequent reduction in size of the bib tag. For readers, the introduction of onboard storage for the Lite reader has been a lifesaver. The single loop 5 meter mats are also an innovation I hope to take advantage. I am also looking forward to learning more about the low-cost UHF system being developed by IPICO. This system may help me compete better on price when the precision of a dual frequency system is not needed.
What’s your current IPICO system set up?
I have an Elite reader with 5 meter mats and two Lite readers each with 2.5 meter mats. Our 11,000 shoe tags are used for cross-country and for road races we use 5,000 to 10,000 bib tags per year. For every event, I integrate the IPICO systems with FinishLynx. This setup provides needed backup and gives me lots of options for our finish line and split locations.
Tell us about your app you created.
Results delivery to clients, runners and spectators is a cornerstone of my timing business. In 2010, I developed a way to deliver results created by HyTek Meet Manager and RunScore to users using mobile devices. In 2014, with the help of timers in Michigan and Ohio, I made this results delivery process into another small business called Timerhub. This business now has over 15 timer clients (and a number of timers who use the free service), supports hundreds of events, and serves almost 5 million page views per year. The service is a web app that works on any handheld device, tablet or PC.
In 2015, I added a new product called Live Scoreboard that delivers results directly from FinishLynx in near real time. At present, I support about 20 live scoreboards for timers in seven states. My next project is to provide a generally available approach for real-time cross-country scores. With the use of IPICO systems and FinishLynx, results can be created quickly and provided to users in real time.
IPICO chip timing opens the door to fast results delivery. Once spectators started using and appreciating these features, race/meet directors started to select us over the competition.
Check out this video of an announcer reading split results as the runners are crossing IPICO mats connected to a Lite reader:
You have a very detailed website, including what you events can expect from you and what you expect from event directors. How important is sharing information like that up front in the event timing process?
Communication is the foundation for a well-run event. If race directors and I know what is expected, we all get what we want. If entries are mess, timing will be a mess, too.
What’s the event timing market like in Northern California?
For cross-country, we compete favorably with non-IPICO timers because the dual frequency technology gives us precision that we can rely on. Times created by readers are within a few hundredths of a second (on average) of the results we would get by manually marking a Lynx image.
We get many XC events that have had a not-so-good experience with UHF chip timing. On the road race front, we get a number of small events in the 200- to 1,500-runner range.
What challenges did you face when you first started timing events and how did you overcome them?
Entry into the timing business can be costly. Our biggest barrier was getting enough events to justify the purchase of the timing equipment. When we moved into chip timing, we took a chance and committed to two large cross-country events betting we could make chip timing work for us. The IPICO equipment was so easy to integrate into our track setup that we ended up timing four large cross country events that first year without issue.
What advice would you offer others who are considering becoming an event timer?
Learn from the best timers you know or can observe. By all means, attend conference like the IPICO Annual Users Conference to see the equipment they use and discuss experiences. In my area, the IPICO/FinishLynx combination is the gold standard for timing cross country.
What is your favorite thing about being an event timer?
My favorite thing is providing a service that coaches and spectators really appreciate. There is nothing better than hearing, “I’m so glad you are timing this event.”
Finally, why did you choose to purchase and use IPICO hardware?
When I was making the decision on which equipment to purchase, the best cross-country timers in the nation were using IPICO. I went to high-level meets where IPICO was used and saw how well IPICO equipment performed. That sold me.