Tuesday, 10 May 2011
AC45 and helicopter. Image copyright Gilles Martin-Raget/www.americascup.com
by Stephanie Martin
Not widely considered an extreme sport, sailing is about to gain a new whole audience as the new America’s Cup reveals just how heart-pounding and dangerous the sport can be.
Connecting viewers to the racing in ways not previously possible, the America’s Cup will transform the way people see the sport. With breakthrough graphics, athlete’s view cameras and onboard microphones, viewers will see and hear the quick decisions being made, the athleticism of the sailors, the raw power of the boats – live, as the teams fly over the water as speeds of up to 35 mph.
“Extreme sport lovers will flock to this new America’s Cup because of the broadcast,” said Richard Worth, Chairman, America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA). “From heart-pounding maneuvers at breakneck speeds to capsizes that result in two-story falls for the athletes, viewers will not just see the action, they will feel like they are in it.”
The backbone of this new experience is also a breakthrough in sports broadcasting – augmented reality from a helicopter. This will be the first time live graphic insertions have been done from a moving platform.
Developed by the same team that developed the yellow first-down line widely used in the broadcast of American football and the Race/FX tracking and highlighting system used in NASCAR, this revolutionary graphics system will have a similar effect on the America’s Cup, connecting new audiences to the sport by creating greater understanding. The superimposed graphic elements will be used as technical aids for viewers, such as ahead-behind lines that can enable audiences to clearly see who is leading the race.
“The America’s Cup has always pushed the technology envelope throughout its history,” said Stan Honey, Director of Technology, ACEA. “Previous America’s Cup broadcasts have featured graphics on an animated view of the race. This next step in the evolution is intended to allow broadcasters to use graphic elements to explain the sport, while enabling viewers to simultaneously see the live action of the race.”
Driven by a GPS system that can track the America’s Cup catamarans to within a two-centimeter accuracy on the race course, event organizers quickly saw the opportunity to leverage the system for on-the-water management of the sport. Telemetering of the course will allow for rapid movement of marks and controlling course limits, while use of real-time overlap and zone-entry determinations will enable umpires to make the most accurate decisions ever possible.
“From a technology point of view, it's a completely new world for us; the way it's going to be umpired, the way the race management will work. But the vision to transform this next Cup is going to soon be a reality,” said Mitch Booth, Skipper, China Team. “We've always believed in it, we expected it would be possible, but to prove to the sailing world and the sporting world that now it can be done is something we're supporting fully.”
The GPS system was just one of several that received a thorough shakedown in New Zealand through test period involving America’s Cup teams from United States, Sweden, China and New Zealand. Event organizers plan to stage additional test sessions in Europe and North America as they prepare for the inaugural America’s Cup World Series event in Cascais, Portugal this August.
The AC World Series is a regular circuit of regattas that will bring America’s Cup-level racing and experience to top international venues. Some of the world’s top athletes will test their physical strength, endurance and mental agility as they compete over a punishing nine days for the chance to win the first AC World Series.
Televised to expose millions more fans to the sport of high-performance sailing, the AC World Series will feature both fleet and match racing at each event. At the end of each AC World Series season, a champion will be crowned. The AC World Series events provide the fans the only opportunity to see all of the America’s Cup competitors racing together.