Boat race replays in Google Earth

We’ve talked before about how you can use Google Earth to record and show GPS tracks from various events, such as off-road running races and biking across Poland. SFGate has a great story about using Google Earth to show realistic replays from a sailboat race.


Using the new “track” feature in Google Earth 5.2, they import the GPS data into Google Earth to make it work. They also took the time to model the area with 3D boats and buoys (available in the 3D Warehouse) to make it more realistic.
Google Earth product manager Peter Birch is referenced numerous times in the article, because he often races on a Catalina sailboat and Google Earth is obviously a huge part of his life. He’s quoted as saying that the track technology “is something we’ve been working on for a long time“, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Birch used data from races like this to help test the features as they were being developed.
Being able to watch replays of the race from any angle gives the teams a great way to understand (and hopefully correct) their mistakes before the next race. Check out the SF Gate article for the full story.
To learn more about creating tracks, this section of Google Earth Help has a lot of great information.
Have you made any neat tracks using Google Earth 5.2? Tell us about them in the comments!

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. Challenging article!
    For quite some time I am convert my GPS data to to Google Earth KML to illustrate my sailing trips (3 months in Croatia and Italy and some smaller trips and races around Europe) and present them on my blog (
    I liked the interactivity of the (flat) map already but my next challenge will certainly be to create something similar to this.
    Is there anyway to receive the KML-file to see how it is implemented?

  2. I’ve previously done something similar by combining mountain bike tracks and snow boarding tracks that were logged at the same time. I’d then use the looping time animation to show the tracks snaking around the course together. The animation didn’t look very good if the time slider was set to show a single placemark point, and the next smallest slider step showed 8 placemarks at a time.
    I just updated one of these files using the ‘Copy As Tracks’ option and it worked perfectly. Now the time animation shows nice little arrow heads smoothly animating around the course. Sweet!

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