Note: Oct 2022 FIS Update
In mid October, after the following document was written and after our guidance went out to clubs, FIS announced that they were bumping the requirement to use homologated equipment in cross country skiing by 1 year till the 2023-2024 season. This effectively means that FIS races could technically continue with past practices and ignore the following changes. Zone4 believes though that because the whole ski community is making the effort to become compliant this year, we should continue as-planned and attempt to meet all requirements this year. This will give us a chance to flush out any issues with the new equipment and procedures with the confidence that if some requirements don’t go as planned on race day, we can revert without consequence. We will be in far better shape having practiced the new procedures and getting familiar with the changes before failure to comply has serious consequences for the validity of the race results.
In Alpine Skiing, FIS has a long history of experience and best practices and has codified those learnings into timing procedures, device standards, and rule books for many years. In 2018, FIS started the process of bringing that same level of standardization to the XC disciplines. Zone4 and the rest of the North American timing community was involved providing feedback on early drafts based on our decades of xc specific timing experience and best practices developed in North America. Although some feedback was incorporated, many recommendations were not and North America is now in a situation where we have no choice but to be in full compliance beginning in 2022-2023 season. Failure to be in compliance means that FIS may not accept results submitted from these races and no FIS points awarded to racers. These changes require a significant investment in new equipment and an increase in setup time each race. There are also changes in timing procedures and reporting. This document discusses the key changes, describes our rationale for not doing it before, and what those changes will mean for event organizers moving forward.
The current FIS timing documents can be found here: https://www.fis-ski.com/en/inside-fis/document-library/timing-data
This document is specifically referencing the page numbering of “Cross-Country / Nordic Combined Timing Booklet October 2020 (version 3)” https://assets.fis-ski.com/image/upload/v1601560511/fis-prod/assets/document-library/data-timing/timing-cross-country-nordic-combined.pdf
1/10,000 sec Timer Precision
Pg 19, Section 6.1
Because XC disciplines are only timed to a precision of 0.1 for distance and 0.01 for sprints, the requirement previously was that the primary timers needed to have a precision to 0.001. The new rules standardize the rules between Alpine and XC and require all timers to have a precision of 0.0001 or 1/10,000 of a second. This makes obsolete most previous timer units and re-designing timers to the new specification is difficult and expensive. Devices must pass FIS homologation testing to be included in the list: https://www.fis-ski.com/DB/information/homologated-timing-equipment.html The current Summit SRT 1000 timers used by many clubs in North America had their homologation expire in 2018 due to these new precision requirements. Summit Systems in collaboration with Zone4 has homologated a new SRT 2000 model to meet the new standards. We have also developed the capability to upgrade existing summits to SRT 2000 units. Note that only the 4 primary A and B timers need to be homologated and backup and keypad entry Summits used for other tasks can remain SRT 500/1000 and be used as-is. Also note that the SRT2000 is ONLY a requirement for FIS races, and lower level xc races in Canada can continue to be run on SRT1000/500 units. As part of development of the SRT2000 timer, Zone4 has taken over manufacturing, distribution, and support of Summit timing hardware. For more information, please see our Summit page here: https://zone4.ca/about/summit/
Printer Attached to Timer
Pg 19. Section 6.1
FIS also requires timers to print directly to thermal printers in real time. This requirement for paper trails is standard in Alpine where verifiable proof of triggering to the highest precision is a crucial aspect of determining medals in a sport where wins are often made to the 100th of a second. XC on the other hand has a continual flow of finishers (and sometimes packs of finishers) and the challenge for a timer is associating the right pulse to the right athlete. Having a paper list of times does not help that process at all. As well, because Summit SRT timers store their times and can re-transmit them anytime later, we have never had a situation where communication issues between the timer and PC have resulted in lost times. Regardless of the pointlessness of the requirement, the FIS homologation list here: https://www.fis-ski.com/DB/information/homologated-timing-equipment.html states that the Summit SRT2000 timer must be used ‘with external printer’.
So in order to be FIS compliant, each of the 4 timers will need to be paired with a thermal printer which will have to reside in a case at each Summit location. We have written a document dedicated to Thermal Printers here: https://help.zone4.ca/kb/thermal-receipt-printers/
This is not a FIS related change, but a new product that solves the battery life issue with Summits and affects your typical race-morning deployment schedule so please review our article about the new Lithium Ion AA batteries: https://help.zone4.ca/kb/rechargeable-lithium-aa-batteries/
Double homologated Photocells
Pg 26, Section 6.4.3
Although photocells are extremely precise instruments, they are unreliable in terms of missing pulses for two finishers who finish at the same time. In XC, it’s routine to miss a photocell time for a second racer who finishes parallel to another racer. FIS rules state that if you are missing an A time from the A photocell, that you should get the time from your B photocell. In Alpine, you never have 2 racers cross together, and because of the ultra wide 50m+ finish lines, it’s more common for photocell alignment issues to occur where a second photocell can save your day. But in XC, a missing A time almost always means you will have a missing B time should you have another photocell there. As a result, Zone4 has always stressed that your timing inputs need to complement each other’s various failure modes. For instance, it would be far more useful to have GoChips, a photofinish camera, and human backup timers so that the strengths of one type of capture can cancel out the inherent weaknesses of the other methods. Zone4’s unique Times Grid concept helps sort out these various inputs and ensures the right photocell time is applied to the right athlete. If a photocell time is missing, the times grid allows you to easily take the next best time from the next most precise source. The requirement to deploy a second photocell will not change anything to our above approach and so for the most part, becomes just an extra cost and extra setup step on race day.
Note that the photocells and startgates must be listed with CURRENT homologation dates in the following list: https://www.fis-ski.com/DB/information/homologated-timing-equipment.html Failure to use homologated equipment will result in FIS rejecting the timing report. Zone4 will be contacting all FIS races ahead of time to ensure all devices are homologated. Note that it’s critical that if you do have 2 photocells, you TEST this setup to ensure you can mount two so close together and have them work properly. Zone4 has had trouble trying to use the Retroreflective style as the reflective style photocell struggle with interference between the two beams. You have to be able to prove that the beam from one unit is not triggering on both units by turning off each set and proving they can work independently from each other. We have had units that fail when the reflected signal interferes with an opposed mode beam. If both units are oppose-mode transmitter + receiver though, you can avoid interference by putting one transmitted and one receiver on each side of the track so the beam is travelling in opposite directions thus avoiding cross-over.
Zone4 will have Photocells available for rent if club’s need an extra one but we’ll need to ensure compatibility before race day.
Clubs will have to develop their own dual photocell mounting bracket system as that is best prepared by each host clubs.
A and B Timers
Zone4 has always had the concept of Primary and Backup timing devices, but FIS has codified the concept of A devices and B devices. This includes both timers and photocells. You will see the references to A and B systems through FIS documentation as well as the FIS timing reports so we have found it useful to start labelling and referring to specific devices as A and B devices. The idea is to have 2 sets of equipment that are separate from each other to provide redundancy in the case of failure. Note that homologated start wands have dual outputs so they can trigger on both the A and B systems.
FIS has codified two approaches to timer setup. For FIS level 0 (Olympics/World Cup) you must run two sets of wires all the way from the start to the finish (or from both start and finish into the timing building) and connect these wires to 2 Summit SRT2000 Timers. One would be the A timer connected to the A port at the start and A photocell at the finish, and the other Summit would be the B timer connected to the B port on the start gate and B photocell. The problem with this approach is running wires is time consuming, and risks a mid-race breakage. This approach also prevents you from doing Post-Plunge workflow at the start as the primary A summit that you would post on is not usually at the start in this scenario. Below is the FIS wiring diagram for Level 0 Individual Start events.
A typical FIS Timing Report for a level 0 event with one A timer and one B timer wired timers.
Level 1-4 races (Nationals, SuperTour, Continental Cup) FIS allows you to have 2 wireless SRT2000 Timers at the start (one plugged into the A port and the other plugged into the B port on the start wand.) You then would have 2 SRT2000 timers at the finish, one plugged into the A photocell, and the other into the B photocell. This approach is how clubs in North America have operated for over a decade and it eliminates the time and risk of wires and allows standard post+plunge of bibs at the start. Therefore for races in North America, Zone4 recommends clubs continue to deploy 4 wireless SRT2000 timer to meet FIS requirements. Additional timers for backup plunging can be SRT1000 or SRT500.
A typical timing report for Level 1-4 races with A & B timers at the start, and A & B timers at the finish.
Another big change in 2022-2023 is the concept of device synchronization. This requires both new hardware via the Sync Activator and Sync Cable, and new procedures. Please see the document here for full details: https://help.zone4.ca/kb/how-to-synchronize-fis-timing-devices/
FIS Timing Reports
For the past few seasons, Zone4 has been filling out the FIS Timing reports remotely on behalf of all the FIS races in Canada. It requires us getting a list of hardware and serial numbers and then filling out the information based on what we found in the timing data. Now that the timer synchronization section is a required part of the Timing Reports, it requires the timer on-site to be filling in information (or at least noting when they completed these steps) before the race starts. Failure to prove synchronization confirmation for example could mean no FIS points are awarded for the event which would be disastrous for all involved. So moving forward, Zone4 will be expecting the on-site timer to complete the required timing reports. The FIS Timing Report application can be downloaded here: https://www.fis-ski.com/en/inside-fis/document-library/timing-data and timers are advised to become familiar with completing the reports several weeks before races happen.
Reading the FIS Timing Booklet, there is a section that describes the device requirements for Photofinish cameras. These requirements include specifications for timer drift, and precision to 1/10,000 second similar to timers. Unfortunately no camera manufacturer states if they meet these FIS requirements and no photofinish cameras are listed as homologated devices on the FIS website. So we reached out to FIS for clarification as there was justified confusion about what photofinish equipment was required to be purchased and used heading into the 2022/2023 season. FIS clarified that they intend to homologate photofinish cameras in the future, and that until such time that they do, we are free to use whatever photofinish camera they want. Photofinish cameras are still required for Mass Start and Sprint races, but FIS will not reject the results or timing reports based on which camera is used. This means RapidCam can continue to be used and we will be using it at World Junior/U23 championships. It will likely take a few years for FIS to develop a test method, homologate a set of devices, and provide time for organizers to purchase and integrate the new hardware.
U20 Sprint Heat Changes
The following change is not specific to FIS, but it’s a change in procedure for how advancements to the heats are handled for sprint races in Canada. A separate article covering the required changes is available here: https://help.zone4.ca/kb/junior-sprint-heat-changes-2022/