When last we visited our heros, Billionaire by the Bay Ralph Ellison of Oracle and his rag tag team of highly compensated ex-patriot New Zealand mercenary dock rats, they had emerged triumphant from their titanic struggle to retrive the Royal Yacht Squadron £100 Cup from the shiftless, coastless, and mysterious Swiss bankers.
These villains had used the wide open rights the Deed of Gift gives the cup holder to set the terms of the next match in ways that make a successful challenge impossible and yes, yes it is much more reprehensible when a foreigner does it, no matter how many times you’ve done it to him.
Sadly this titanic struggle between evil and slightly lesser evil went almost entirely unnoticed by United States audiences despite its lopsidedness, perhaps because it was only available as a live simulcast from Valencia. Because Billionaires crave celebrity with the searing secret lust of any random reality ‘star’ this situation must be corrected.
And so America’s Cup 2.0, re-imagined for the new century.
Now there are some things that are very good about this, the return of the Louis Vuitton Cup for one, but there are others that invite consideration.
A goal (not the only one) is to make the sport more like Formula One. As a way to expand their schedule they’ve instituted a second series of more frequent races which is purported to acclimate crews and managers to the capabilities of the new equipment. Because they use smaller boats support staff and crew are greatly reduced making it somewhat less expensive.
These contests are held in the traditional picturesque watering holes, this week in Newport R.I., and so far have been quite exciting (though hard to find) because of the wide variety of wind conditions and ‘Regatta’ races with all the boats out on course bashing into each other.
But this article in The New York Times describes some of the other ways they’re working to make it more telegenic-
America’s Cup Updates As It Trawls for Viewers
By JOSHUA BRUSTEIN, The New York Times
Published: June 27, 2012
The task of changing this belongs to Stan Honey, whom the America’s Cup hired as its director of technology last year. Honey has made a career out of creating augmented reality for sports broadcasts. He is best known for the glowing first-down line in football telecasts, and he has also developed glowing hockey pucks for N.H.L. games, the illuminated strike zone for baseball and various graphics for Nascar races.
Sailing is in more dire need of augmented reality than perhaps any other sport, said Honey, a former professional sailor. Boats tack back and forth, trying to catch pockets of wind that will propel them through a race’s various legs. It can be difficult to determine who is ahead, or what strategy is being employed to remain there.
“If you don’t put the graphics on the water, you end up with people saying, O.K., white triangles on a blue background,” Honey said.
So Honey has developed the LiveLine system, a virtual playing field that lies on top of the telecast. On television, boats fly flags identifying themselves. White lines appear at regular intervals, and blue lines mark the boundaries of the pitch, turning a patch of open water into something resembling a nautical football field. Yellow circles surround the motorboats that mark the end of each leg, identifying the areas where the changes in which a boat has the right of way can come into play.
Honey’s team has ended up changing how the races operate. Race officials now watch the sailing on monitors from a control room on the shore, and any decision that relies on the objective knowledge of a boat’s position is made using the same positional data used to create the graphics.
The new approach has also inspired some new rules. Until recently, the penalty for certain fouls required a team to stop its boat and spin it in a circle. Now, a virtual line appears two boat lengths behind the offender, which must move behind the line to pay off the penalty. For 10 seconds, that line moves at the same speed as the boat. After that, the line slows to three-quarters of the boat’s speed.
The America’s Cup has also begun using computerized data analysis to change the course of the race while the race is in progress, to make sure that the event fits easily into broadcast time slots.
You can see the results starting at 2:30 pm on NBC.