The Wall Street Journal describes the race to modernize the America’s Cup:
The 34th America’s Cup next year in San Francisco Bay will be raced in AC72s, a brand-new wingsailed, multihull boat. There hasn’t been such a radical redesign in two decades, if ever. The 2013 match will also be the first that’s truly visible, both physically (we’ll be able to watch the whole race from land) and in spirit. They’ve decided to use technology to make real-time race decisions and competitor progress transparent to fans. “It’s taken 160 years to reach some of these quite obvious conclusions,” Russell Coutts, chief executive and helmsman of Oracle Racing, told me. “This industry was so secretive before.”
Now sailing is getting less opaque and more nimble, onboard and off. July 1 is the first day that Sweden, New Zealand, France, Italy, Korea and the defender of the cup, Oracle Team USA, are allowed to launch their 72-foot-long catamarans into the bay, to start practicing for next year—and these new cats can go 40 knots. That’s almost 50 miles per hour.
Meanwhile, convincingly, the LiveLine technology of the U.S. America’s Cup team recently won an Emmy award “for extraordinary innovation in sports.” Superimposing geo-positioned graphics and data streams over live race video, LiveLine “paints” virtual boundary, finish and ahead-and-behind lines on the water during a broadcast.
This live-televised technology was pioneered with hockey in 1996, to track the puck. Then came the yellow first-down line in football, the virtual strike zone in baseball and Nascar tracking. It’s a bit trickier applied to sailing, with video shot from a moving helicopter. But LiveLine’s GPS can still track the America’s Cup boats to within 2 centimeters. LiveLine constantly adjusts for hue, too (water color fluctuates in a way AstroTurf does not), recognizing what is fluid and what isn’t, to avoid “painting” a line over a boat or a buoy.