Static apnea is a one of the traditional Arab sports which Microgate has been following for some time now in the United Arab Emirates for the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center (see articles on Falconry, Target Shooting and Dog Racing).
Developed from ancient pearl fishing traditions, this speciality consists of immersing oneself underwater (at depths varying from 1 to 5 metres) without any equipment or previous oxygen hyperventilation. The time is measured by three judges following the contestant, starting from the moment they go underwater and stopping the moment they re-emerge. The official time is taken from the average times measured by three judges. After resurfacing, the competitor must remain in the water for 1 minute ("medical time"), vigil and conscious, clinging to a buoy, to confirm to the judges that they show no signs of loss of consciousness or pre-syncope syndrome (SAMBA). Before immersion, each person has a right to 10' (15' in the finals) for preparatory concentration, which can be spent in the water or outside it ("concentration time").
Every year in the Hamdan Sports Complex in Dubai, a prestigious world-level static apnea (FreeDiving) event took place, where Microgate participated in its role as technological partner in time recording, TV graphics and event organisation (inscriptions, athlete registration, etc.).
Nearly 90 participants from 17 different countries – spread between inhabitants of the Gulf Region (GCC), Professionals and Juniors – provided thrilling challenges and results which astonished those unused to this discipline: the winner Branko Petrovic triumphed with a stunning 10’15”, the result of physical ability but also meditation and relaxation techniques.
The specific requisites set by the organisers for time measurement equipment were that the time be visible on a display monitor and that the manual actions of starting and stopping could be carried out on one simple button.
The stop-watch selected was the Witty·TIMER, usually used in training conditions but perfectly suitable for competitions which do not require precision of ten-thousandths of a second, fitted with an ergonomic start/stop button.
The ergonomic virtues of the stop-watch (hand-held and hung around the neck), the large colour display with smartphone-like user interface, together with a firmware customised for the occasion and for this speciality, left the local judges extremely satisfied with their usage experiences... some of them were relatively new to high-level timing.
At the moment of registration, each contestant was supplied with their water-proof (obviously!) wrist-band, interfaced with the Witty·RFID scanner, both in the registration phase (chip writing) and in ID checking before immersion.
The Witty system was completed by the Witty·SEM light signal, used to show Red or Green when the competitor "scanned" to check their identity, and also to show the countdown during the concentration phase.
The start and stop impulses from the 12 Witty stop-watches (3 judges on each of 4 areas) were sent to two Witty·COMBOXES connected to PCs running DiveRace software, the nerve centre of the whole event.
This programme (an offshoot of our MiSpeaker race management software) made it perfectly simple to simultaneously handle 4 competition areas involving competitors from different categories. This greatly speeded up the timing of the event (in previous years all 4 competitors in each area had to conclude before the next batch of 4 could begin)... so much so that for the final phase the Organising Committee decided to use a single area, in order to avoid finishing the event too soon compared to schedule!
All the information provided to both competitors and public was also handled by Microgate, thanks to its DiveRace software and especially the MiSpeakerGT TV graphic (also developed by our Senior Dev Engineer Alessandro Miorelli).
Various different screens showed various different kinds of information: in the Rest Area where participants concentrated and rested before their immersion, competitor schedules were shown, plus current standings and the clock on the current four competitors.
Those about to compete could see their personal countdown to the moment of immersion, while the public could watch – either on TV monitors nearby or especially on the giant Led Screen positioned above the swimming pool – underwater camera images of the current competitors. The superimposition of live images of competitors with their individual performance times made for thrilling viewing.
All the hardware and software was operated by a highly trained and experienced team of 8 people, sharpened by many months of active practice on the previous heritage events mentioned earlier.