December 16, 2019
Rachel Parsons

The ultimate guide to the Yellow Brick

Are you hooked on this year's Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge? Who knew dot watching could be so addictive!

In this news article, we explain exactly what a Yellow Brick is and what each item in the Yellow Brick app means.

What is a Yellow Brick?

Each ocean rowing boat in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge and most independent rowing challenges have a Yellow Brick YB3 attached to their boat. 

The small device - the size of a walkie talkie - is a waterproof, drop proof tracking device that automatically transmits the boat's position from anywhere on Earth.

The Yellow Brick uses the Iridium satellite network - this is the only satellite network that allows transmission of information from any point on the earth. With 66 satellites orbiting the earth at any given time, this network works far beyond the reach of WiFi and GSM networks.

This genius device has a battery life of around 2500 transmissions. To put that into perspective, the Yellow Brick trackers in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge transmit every 4 hours. Over a 60 day period, that only uses 15% of it's battery.

What does it all mean?

Lets start with the Yellow Brick app for phone and tablet:

Download the Yellow Brick app and select which race you wish to follow

The two yellow lines at the start

At the very beginning of the race, before the first yellow line, the Yellow Brick trackers are set to transmit every 1 hour. During the first and second yellow line, they will transmit every 2 hours and after the second yellow line, they will transmit every 4 hours.

The red line

This is the most direct route from start to finish but does not always mean it's the best route. You can turn the red line off in the 'Overlays' tab at the bottom.

The slider

Located at the bottom of the map, this lets you go back in time to watch how the boats have moved. If you haven't tried this already, give it a go, it's fascinating!

The wind overlay

The wind overlay allows you to see the wind speed and direction. This will give you an indication of why some boats are going faster than others and why some are taking different routes. You can turn the wind overlay on or off in the 'Overlays' tab at the bottom.

The Teams tab

Each team is listed in alphabetical order. By clicking on the team name, you can see details such as the location of the boat, speed and direction and position in the race (at last transmission). The coloured circle icon next to the team name locates the team on the map.

The Leaderboard tab

Each team is listed in current position. This is determined by the closest to the finish rather than the amount of miles rowed.

Start time - Shows the team start time. Each team started at 5 minute intervals, starting with the fours, then the trios, then pairs and finally the solos.

Updated - Shows when the Yellow Brick last transmitted.

DTF - Distance to finish in nautical miles.

Rowed - Number of miles rowed so far. Note: a team may have rowed more miles than another team, but they may be further away from the finish meaning they are in a lower position in the race.

VMG - Velocity Made Good - this is the optimum velocity in the direction of your destination. "The most efficient direction towards the target, taking external factors into account i.e. boat speed, wind direction, wind speed, wave direction and current." ~ Charlie Pitcher

Last 24hrs - Shows the number of nautical miles rowed in the last 24 hours.

VMG Start (top right of screen) - shows the VMG since the start of the race.

VMG Recent (top right of screen) - shows the VMG since the last Yellow Brick transmission.

TOP TIP: If you tap the team name in the leader board, it will display an estimated finish date and time.

The Social tab

This shows who's talking about the app and what they are saying on social media.

The desktop version

If you thought the app on your phone was addictive, then try the computer version. To view, visit the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge website and click on the link from the top of the Home page.

Once the YB page opens, you can view the wind, temperature, pressure, clouds, currents and waves as it's happening. Simply explore all the toggle and overlay options in the grey bar at the top of the screen. For example, to see the wind conditions:

1. Click the 'Toggle wind data' tab under 'Overlays / Map' - the one that looks like a flag.
2. Select 'Windy.'
3. Click the down arrow to select what you would like to see.
4. You can move the slider at the top to see the factors up to 10 days in the future.


You can use the ruler tool to measure the distance between teams.

  1. Select the 'Toggle ruler' under 'Tools' - the box icon next to the question mark
  2. Click 2 points on the map to display the number of miles (as the crow flies) between the 2 points.


You can reveal and hide side menu on the map by clicking the arrows. You can even set up an automatic slideshow to show how the boats moved since the start. You can also change the speed at which it plays.

We hope you have enjoyed our guide to the Yellow Brick app!