Starting System

Automatic Start System


 This system has been developed in order to obtain a perfect alignment of the bows on the imaginary starting line in a canoe-kayak competition.

Nine gates (in canoe sprint, rowing and dragon boat competitions) or a single gate of variable length (in long distance competitions) made from a transparent material or metal stop and align the boats.

A bar covered with plastic material and fixed to the submerged part of each gate blocks the bow, helping the competitor hold the canoe in the correct starting position.

When the starting signal is given, the movable arms on which the gates are fixed submerge automatically with a rapid and simultaneous movement, allowing the boats to advance.

At the same time, a sudden and short sound - similar to a gunshot, but other sounds are available – signals the start of the race for all crews.



Starting line

Each starting line measures 81m – if required, this can be longer – created by connecting nine rectangular sections with a hinge device.

Each rectangular section measures 2m x 9m and consists of 5cm x 5cm bars in stainless steel with flanges at both ends that have to be assembled with pivots and bolts.

Each bar has a maximum length of 3.33m.

Movable levers

They consist of a lever with fulcrum on the frame and a V-shaped gate made from a transparent material at the end.

A pneumatic piston allows the levers to move.


The gates float thanks to 20 C3 buoys with a through hole. There is a winch fitted to the top of the buoys with a cable that passes through a stainless steel tube inserted in the through hole of each buoy.

The metal structure is held at the required depth – usually at 1.20m under the surface – by turning the winch handle.

Electrical and pneumatic connection system

The system chosen is very simple. It consists of a small box with two connectors fixed to its sides. One connector links the electrical cable carrying 24V current to the box; the other one links the electrical cable for that box with the box in the adjacent lane.

Air exchange occurs thanks to a electromagnet air valve in each box.

The number of each lane is affixed to the front and rear of the corresponding box. A horn loudspeaker is fixed to each box.

Pneumatic circuit

An air compressor (400ml/s) holds the pressure of the pneumatic circuit at 5-6 atm.

The pneumatic circuit feeds a tank for each section at the same time. Each tank in turn feeds the corresponding pneumatic electrovalve that activates a starting position.

Each tank and pneumatic electrovalve is placed beside each element and allows a rapid and simultaneous reaction when the starting signal is given.

Each pneumatic electrovalve is in a small box with the corresponding lane number.

Control box

The metal control box, which is approximately 1.20m high, contains:

  • -a current transformer that reduces the voltage from 220V to 24V;
  • -an air pressure gauge;
  • -an air amplifier;
  • -a residual current device.

The exterior of each box has:

  • -a connector for input current (220V);
  • -a connector for output current (24V);
  • -a connector with a shut-off valve for input compressed air;
  • -a connector for output compressed air;
  • -a NO (normally open) connector for timekeepers;
  • -a socket for various functions (e.g. charging a mobile phone).


Control panel

The control panel is fitted on the top of the control box.

The control panel includes:

  • -a lock with removable key and ON/OFF positions, used to provide 24V current to the system with 9 simultaneous starts needed for canoe sprint races;
  • -a lock with removable key and ON/OFF positions, used to provide 24V current to the system with individual starts needed for canoe relay races;
  • -a blue indicator light, indicating power on;
  • -a connector for a speaker microphone;
  • -a red emergency button, used to secure the system;
  • -a red button with an indicator light used to raise the gates out of the water;
  • -a green button with an indicator light, used to submerge the gates simultaneously (in canoe sprint races) or individually (in canoe relay races);
  • -a black button, which activates an alarm in case of false start;
  • -a digital clock, which displays the exact time and enables correct starts.


The system is driven by compressed air, which enters the piston/cylinder. The gates emerge from the water or submerge almost vertically depending on the movement of this piston.

The air enters the cylinder through a valve, then the movement of the piston rod allows the exchange of air into and out of the cylinder. 

The piston rod enters the cylinder if the starter pushes the red button (arm) and exits the cylinder if he pushes the green button (start), allowing the air to exit or enter the cylinder.

In canoe sprint races, the movement of the cylinders is synchronised, while in canoe relay races the cylinders receive air individually.


The lightness of the structure and its low hydrodynamic resistance make it particularly quick to move the automatic starting line.

If the course has plenty of sea room (starting line for canoeing and kayaking: 81m long –  that for rowing: 104m long), the starting line can be moved from 1000m to 200m in less than an hour, including unhooking and re-hooking at 200m. 

The starting line should be towed by a motor boat with a 25hp (minimum power) outboard engine. The course can then be corrected with a motor boat provided with a 5hp (minimum power) outboard engine.


If the competition takes place on a course with the Albano system, the system is fixed to the cables number 1 and 10 by using snap-hooks with adjustable straps.

Operation parameters

  • -Gate alignment accuracy on the starting line: within 5mm
  • -Gate/shoes movement speed: 27m/s
  • -Gate submerging time: 1 sec
  • -Gate return time to the starting position: immediate
  • -Start frequency: immediate
  • -Sound: the starter talks to the competitors through a microphone fixed to the control panel
  • -Control panel: all buttons for turning the system on and off, sound amplifier, clock, air pressure gauge, false start alarm
  • -Timekeeper connection: through a normally open connector on one side of the control panel

Mechanical parameters

  • -Frame material: stainless steel
  • -Structure: 5 cm x 5cm box-shaped structure
  • -Structure shape: 2m x 9m rectangular frame
  • -Structure holding at approximately 1.20m under the surface: through buoys with winches that control the required depth of the structure
  • -Electric and air connectors, air valves: placed in a small box on the left or right of the competitor
  • -Lane number: on the front and rear of the small box
  • -Horn loudspeaker: fixed on the top of the small box
  • -9m-module weight: 75 kg (canoe-kayak and dragon boat), 90 kg (rowing)
  • -Transport of already assembled structures: three lines assembled in 9m-modules and placed vertically on a long vehicle
  • -Piston/Cylinder: stainless steel
  • -Air compressor: 400ml/s

First assembly

-3 hours per line

Installation on regatta course

  • -Required staff for installation: 4 people
  • -Installation time from shore: 5 - 2.5 hours
  • -Minimum water depth for towing: 6m
  • -Towing time: approximately 30 minutes for a 9-start line (81m) to cover 500m

Routine maintenance

-Once a year