Breaking a Guinness world record is no easy feat, but in 2014, the folks behind Bart’s Bash did just that. With help from Drupal, they coordinated the world’s largest-ever sailing race — a fundraising event in memory of Andrew “Bart” Simpson.
Bart Simpson was a British sailor who won a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, a silver medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and medaled in numerous World and European Championships. After Simpson was killed in a sailing accident in May of 2013 when training for the 2013 America’s Cup, his friends and family went on to found the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation in his memory.
“Andrew had passed away six months before [we began organizing Bart’s Bash],” said David Bishop, who built the website for Bart’s Bash. David is a sailor and runs NinetyOne Consulting out of Shropshire, England with his wife, who did much of the design work for the Bart’s Bash site. “When we set out initially, our goal was [to reach] only fifty sailing clubs, to raise £10,000, and see 2,000 people on the water."
The Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation exists to inspire personal growth in young people through sailing. According to the Bart’s Bash 2014 website, "Many of our Olympic sailors have described the first time they were given charge of a boat as their moment of clarity – the first instance they felt true responsibility and in command of their destiny. Whether or not children will take up sailing as a pastime, many studies have shown that children who are confident, have self worth and personal resilience do better in every way. They are happier in their personal and family life, they are better able to learn, do better at school and in employment and they are more open to new experiences in life. We aim to provide an avenue to that fulfilment and have global ambitions to spread the attitude, inspiration and personality of Andrew Simpson around the world."
“Initially, there was a Facebook page that had been set up in memory of Bart, and it only had about five thousand followers,” said David. “So we built a one page website for the event, and I put social sharing buttons on it. We were very quickly up to several thousand shares on Facebook, and hundreds on Twitter.
"Within three or four weeks, over 300 sailing clubs had come to us and said, ‘we want to be involved,’” David continued. “So we had to change what the event was going to be. Initially, we were just going to be a dinghy event in the UK, but because of the international interest from yacht clubs, kitesurfing clubs, model yacht clubs... all these people wanted to be a part of it, and we wanted to accommodate them as much as possible.”
The perfect platform for breaking records
As it turned out, Drupal was the perfect platform for this rapidly-growing event. “The whole concept of Bart’s Bash was that there’s no overriding governance. It's about engaging sailing clubs and getting someone at each venue to say, 'I’ll hold an event here, I’ll manage it,’” said David. “From that point of view it was a massively volunteer, community driven event. We’ve been as open as possible about making sure clubs can make their own pages and manage their own content, to make the event as successful as possible."
For David, that meant building a platform that sailing clubs around the world could use and make their own.
“I’ve built the system so that each club can create their own page,” David said. "They log in to a control panel, upload their own content, and manage it themselves. With the flexibility of the Simple CCK module, and blocks and views, it was possible for me to do rapid development. I built the whole thing myself. I had a little help from a local web development company — a day’s support, maybe — but other than that, one person built this whole system, and the scale it gives you is phenomenal.
“It’s interesting, because one of the areas that this has shown that the foundation can go into is providing services around the world just as a club web page. A lot of sailing clubs might not have a page that looks as nice as this, or that isn’t mobile responsive. But all of this is. So that’s actually one of the services that the foundation is looking at: we’re thinking of turning this into a ‘Learn to Sail' directory where you can find information about sailing at clubs near you.
“It’s amazing how good Drupal is as a platform — it definitely works for something like this,” David continued. “It’s just so flexible and so scalable. We put up the site for the 2014 event, and translated one of the key pages into eight or nine different languages. As you know, you turn on the international module and add the different variations, and you’re done. Drupal is the only platform out there that does this."
“A lovely festival of sailing"
Building a scalable, global website was only the beginning of holding a worldwide race, however.
“One of the biggest challenges was that it was going to be a global race — so how do you rank people racing in different time zones, in different classes?” David said. “We worked with a formula so we could calculate speed — a handicapped speed, if you will — so people in fast boats were adjusted for slow boats. Ultimately it came down to where the wind was in the world on that day. We were fortunate to receive a lot of help from the UK’s Royal Yachting Association with this challenge."
“After the race, we split the results up by age, experience, wind conditions, country, and boat class, which was key,” David continued. “We were able to produce a very nice set of statistics, and that’s something that hasn’t really been done in sailing before. In most sailing races, you just get a very straightforward set of results to see the winners. But it turns out our way was really popular— we saw a lot more traffic to the website after the events and continually for the next few weeks. As more results came in for those few weeks afterwards, seeing how the top 10 has moved up and down, it was great."
But for the sailors, it turns out it wasn’t all about winning. “We thought people were going to be obsessed about the results, and we weren’t sure how we’d validate it,” David said. “But in reality, we had massive boats in the same start lines as a 7-year-old kid in a tiny boat. It turned out people didn’t care about the race so much. Instead, it became this lovely festival of sailing."
Breaking world records
With the size of the event, the Bart’s Bash organizers were certain they’d be able to break a world record.
"For Guinness we had to get video of every start and every finish, plus steward and witness statements, and then we had to send each club bundle in. With more than 500 venues around the world participating, we wound up having nearly 10,000 boats qualified as being part of the world record,” said David. In total, the group collected and calculated results for 30,754 sailors across 52 countries around the world.
“It was another great way to get people involved in the event,” he continued. “Telling them that they're going to be a Guinness world record holder."
When it comes to the next year of races, David has high hopes. “For 2015, the Guinness restrictions have been lifted as we want to encourage small clubs who were not large enough to qualify under the rules required by Guinness last year. Also in 2015, we want more non-sailors on the water at more clubs around the world. To help make this happen we have come up with an idea called “Bart’s Buddies” aimed at taking your mates sailing. There will also be a special “Bouy Race” which will make it easier to get all of the wonderful volunteers sailing. To help showcase that, this year’s website is much more geared around showing the photos and the videos taken by each club around the world."
“Ultimately, three things brought the whole event together last year, and are pushing it forward this year, too,” David said. “First, it's a worthy fundraising reason. People want to do something in Andy’s memory. Second, it's a challenge — and sailors love challenges. Lastly, though, it brings a global community together, and Drupal as a platform enabled that to happen. We could create maps showing where people were using Open Layers modules. We could personalize the website for different people, and could drill down data and results.”
“Really, this is the first census for sailing activity done around the world in one day. It hadn’t been done before, which makes this website and event historic from that point of view,” said David. “We’ve been approached by other sailing associations and foundations, saying 'we want to do this, can we use the data you’ve collected.’"
As for what comes next, David is excited for the race coming up in September.
“A big sailing club signed up to participate in Barcelona last year,” David said. “And this year, the race is on 20 September — the day before DrupalCon Barcelona happens. Perhaps we’ll be able to get some Drupalers out there?
“The fact that Drupal exists means that Bart’s Bash happened. It has a lot of thanks to give to Drupal,” David concluded.
Source: Drupal Association