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Navigation is a key task in getting from the start to the finish. It's a relatively easy task that can be learned with just a little instruction and a few pages reading. It also can be a relatively uninteresting task, especially in the west where turns are often dozens of miles apart. Read on and you'll learn (almost) everything you need to know about navigation to stay on course.

The Basics
The Crew in the passenger seat of the Support Vehicle is generally the navigator. They will follow the Route Book and communicate with the driver and Racer where they are and when the next turn is. Everyone should know how to navigate as tasks change.

The Route Book is the bible of navigation so you will need to know how to read the Route Book.
Reading directions is usually not that hard and you might be able to figure it out on your own. The Route Book itself does have a section with hints instructions to optimize your use of the Route Book; that section is also included in the GEAR Book. If you want to see what a couple pages of the Route Book looks like, again refer to the GEAR Book for samples or you can go online and find every section there.

Every turn in the Route Book is marked. To help make identification of those lines very obvious, the best navigator highlight every turn in the Route Book with a highlighter marker. This way when you open to any page you know exactly where the turns are and don;t have to scan.

Every page of the route page begins at a Time Station and the mileage starts again from zero. Landmarks, references points, and turns are identified by the mileage from the last Time Station. You should reset the vehicle trip odometer at every Time Station to make following the mileages in the Route Book simple. If you forget to reset the trip odometer, you will have some math to do to figure out where you are. It's best to remember to reset the odometer. Anyone who is in the vehicle should help remind the driver to reset the odometer at each Time Station. You might consider taping a reminder onto the steering wheel also.

As you pass each landmark, reference point, or turn you should check it off in the route book. This will verify that you have seen each point. With landmarks every 3 to 6 miles, you will know very quickly if you are lost as well.

In many building professions (carpentry, electrical, plumbing) they have a saying - "Measure twice, cut once." In other words check and double check the navigation so you follow the route. This is really all there is to it. With some diligence and paying attention, every vehicle can get across the country without getting lost.

Recommended Navigation Supplies:

  • Highlighter Marker - to highlight turns
  • Pens - to mark landmarks and make notes
  • Calculator - for data collection
  • Atlas/Maps - in case you get lost
  • Route Books - at least two per vehicle
  • Flashlight/Headlamp - to see at night.
  • A clipboard and additional pads of paper can also be helpful.

A Turn Is Coming Up, How Do You Tell the Racer?
There are several ways to inform the Racer of an upcoming turn and it depends on the communication equipment you have.

  • If you have a working PA system, you can use that.
  • If you have working radios between the Support Vehicles and the Racer, you can use that.
  • Some Crews use small bullhorns that they aim out the window.
  • Provided it's safe, you can pull up next to the Racer and let them know of the upcoming turn.

If you are doing leapfrog support, make sure you get to the turn before the Racer to mark the turn otherwise they won't know where to go.

If there are several turns very quickly, such as in a city, consider having help from another Support Vehicle or Crew to mark the turns. The other Support Vehicle can drive ahead, drop off a Crew member at each corner, and then go back and pick them up.

If you need to stop by gas or food, ensure there are no turns for several miles. You should mark a turn for the Racer, then go back for food or gas and of course inform your Racer of what you are doing.

RAAM will mark the turns, except in California. These can be a double check of an upcoming turn.

Time Station Call-Ins
At every Time Station, you must call Race Headquarters and let them know what time you arrived. Time Station Call-Ins are not a part of navigation, but it can be prudent to assign this task to the navigator. They have the Route Book and know exactly when the Racer passes a Time Station. This can prevent confusion as to who should call in or having multiple call-ins.

Data Collection
The Route Book has plenty of space to make notes or record time and mileage data which can prove valuable during the race. Many Racers also like to review this data after the race. Race strategy and planning sometimes depend on this data as well. Some Racers thrive on data like this. This can also give the Navigator something to do.

You can record:

  • Times at each Time Stations.
  • Times at various turns or references points.
  • When and where you stopped and for how long
  • When and where Racer exchanges happened.
  • When and where you filled up with gas.

With all this data you can calculate:

  • Average speeds for various sections and for each Racer.
  • Wow long each Racer is on the road?
  • How efficient your stops are.
  • Fuel efficiency (mpg) of your Support Vehicles to know when the next fillup is needed.

What Should You Do If You Get Lost or Are Off Course?
Getting lost does happen. If you get lost it's best to remain calm and composed, no matter how tired you are or how annoyed your Racer may be. Being calm will help clarify your thinking so you can quickly get back on course. There is no one right way to get back on course because it depends on how lost you are and how far off course you are.

First, try to verify where you are. If you have a working GPS device it can tell you exactly where you are. You may have an advantage because returning to the course might be as simple as programming the GPS device to provide directions back to the route.

To know where you are, you will need to find a road sign or intersection. Review the maps in the Route Book, they might be able to help though most are at the wrong scale. If you have maps or Atlases with you, review those. Try to find a local who can help guide you back to the course. You might try calling another Support Vehicle as well. Try driving back the way you came.

Once you are back on course, make sure you restart from where you went off course. If you get directions from a local, they may look at the Route Book and direct you just to get back on course anywhere. This is a rule violation. If you're not sure go back a few miles to check.

If you are lost, rules allow you to put the Racer in the vehicle and drive them back to the course. Use this as a rest period for your Racer. Have one or two Crew attend to getting back to the course and have another Crew person attend to the Racer. Perhaps some rest, perhaps some food, perhaps a change of clothing, perhaps a massage. Treat the situation as a rest stop, albeit an unplanned one.

If you are a Team, rules allow a Team member to start riding immediately from where you went off course. For this, you will need to determine where you went off course and then notify the rest of your Crew. Another Racer may or may not be ready to ride and it may be quicker just to get your racer back to the course.

Once you're down the road a bit and feeling settled, review what happened so hopefully it doesn't happen again. Every Crew member is probably going to make at least mistake during the Race, don't play the blame game. There's nothing that can be done, so get back to the Race and getting to the finish.

This is a situation where the flexibility and resourcefulness of a good Crew member are so valuable because every situation is different. It is certainly frustrating to be lost, but remain calm and take the opportunity to attend to your Racer.

English and Metric
The United States uses the English system of measurement which includes miles, yard, and feet. All road signs and vehicle odometers are in miles. All RAAM documentation is in miles. To help with conversion to and from the metric system if that's your native system, here are some handy conversions. These are all approximates. These all work for mph and kph also.

1 mile ~ 1.6 kilometers
3 miles ~ 5 kilometers
5 miles ~ 8 kilometers
7 miles ~ 12 kilomters
10 miles ~ 16 kilometers
12 miles ~ 20 kilometers
15 miles ~ 25 kilometers
18 miles ~ 30 kilometers
20 miles ~ 32 kilometers
25 miles ~ 40 kilometers

3 feet ~ 1 meter
1 yard~ 1 meter
2 inches ~ 5 cm

Here are the real conversions:
1 mile = 1.609 kilometers
1.094 yard = 1 meter
1 inch = 2.54 cm

GPS Systems
GPS systems can help with navigation and there is another section which discusses this method of navigation. A reminder on GPS systems is to do your research early. If you choose to use a GPS device, be sure you know how to use it BEFORE you get to the start of the race. Some devices have a learning curve that you will need to master before heading to the start.

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