How to time & prepare results for distance races

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Race results are best prepared in a spreadsheet (Excel) format. This is the way we like it at and a spreadsheet is also an easy format for newspapers and other media outlets. While it may seem like recording results into a spreadsheet is a simple task, the process can often be involved and unnecessarily difficult. With some advice from Jim Lovell of JTL Timing, who has timed over 1500 races, we have gathered some tips to ease the timing process.


Jim Lovell emphasizes that "99 percent of all problems in results are from poor registration data." The good news is that these problems are easily remedied.

  1. Make sure your form gathers the right data. First Name, Last Name, Sex, and Division are the four crucial items needed for results. Birth date is also often used to verify the participant is in the correct division.
  2. Do a usability test if your form is new. Test out your form on a few friends to make sure fields are not easily overlooked.
  3. Pre-register as much as possible. Getting all the entrant data into a spreadsheet early on will save time in the end.
  4. Have an id number (boat number) ready for each participant. Vynl stickers work well. Make sure these numbers are recorded for each entrant and that their number will be visible to the people who will be timing from shore.


Timing is never an easy job, but there are a few things that will help you get the job done efficiently and without error.

  1. Timing takes two people.
    • Take time data and identification data separately to get accurate results in close finishes.
    • Person 1: write down boat numbers by hand in the order of finishes or enter them directly into a spreadsheet.
    • Person 2: record times with a printout stopwatch (available for $100-$200).
  2. Take down boat numbers and times together when possible.
    • These serve as key values that will allow you to maintain accurate results in the case of extra times from the stopwatch or bandits (unofficial entries).
  3. Get a direct line of sight as close to the finish as possible.

Prepare results

Excel can be used to prepare the race result data sheet before the race.

  1. This should include at least First Name, Last Name, Boat #, Gender and Division.
  2. The data can be entered in any order and then sorted according to Boat #.
  3. This sheet can be used from race to race if most of the participants are regulars.

After the race, result times and boat numbers can be matched up and entered into the existing spreadsheet.

  1. Sort by time for overall results. You can find the sort command under the Data menu.
  2. Sort by sex, division, and time for results by division.
  3. Hide or delete any records of those who didn't race and you are left with a nicely organized set of results.

Results at the race site

Jim recommends using office supply labels to organize results immediately following the race. You can set up a poster board to list divisions as a template score board. Write the boat numbers and names onto office labels. When the race is over you can add participant times onto the labels and paste them onto the poster board for paddlers to see immediately following the race. If a laptop is available, results could be compiled in Excel and printed (have to lug a printer along) at the site. If you have a better method or explanation of preparing results at the race site, please let us know.

Comments? Suggestions? Please email or leave them below.

Posted by keizo on Mon, 05/01/2006 - 1:37pm


online resumes thanks for the detailed steps!

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