The idea that one day we’ll be watching Super Boat Sunday may seem totally implausible. Sailboat racing has never been considered a mainstream sport—certainly not an event you’d spend Sunday afternoon watching on TV with your family. But that may all be changing with the 2013 America’s Cup.
First, let’s discuss two theories as to why professional sailing doesn’t capture more of a TV audience: First is the perception of sailing as slow, quiet and relaxing—not exciting enough for TV. That may be true if you’re talking about recreational sailing, but America’s Cup racing is different. The latest Cup races feature AC72 catamaran sailboats, regarded as the “Formula 1 of sailboats.” These giant, twin-hull boats can hit speeds in excess of 45 mph. Relaxing? Watch the crew of an AC72 in action—it’s a constant, choreographed struggle to tame the ever-changing wind and ocean as well as the mass of the boat, while squeezing the most speed possible out of a 13,000-pound vessel. The crew members are pro athletes who train constantly.
The second theory is that the way sailboat racing and the America’s Cup have been televised is lame. I can’t disagree with this. Traditional race coverage is overhead helicopter footage of boats sailing on a big blue ocean, splashed in with tight footage from a boat motoring alongside the race boat. There are no reference points to help the viewer gauge speed, and often, TV viewers cannot even see the boundaries of the course or the field of play. On-board audio has been, at best, muted and distorted by wind. Except for those well-versed in the sport or who actually sail, most people will lose interest in a hurry. That’s all about to change.
Sportvision, the same company that brought us the “illuminated” first-down line in the NFL and the strike zone (a.k.a., “the K zone”) for MLB is applying its craft to sailing. America’s Cup is working with Qualcomm to develop LiveLine, a technology that will illuminate the course or field of play, as well as display the speed of the boats, the boats’ progress and more—making for a more engaging and exciting TV viewing experience.
And America’s Cup fans who want to follow the races on the go can download the America’s Cup App and Speed Trials Game to your mobile device.
Want to learn more about the technology behind the America’s Cup? Check out this interview with Stan Honey, co-founder of Sportvision.
Technology, like that created by Sportvision, is truly changing the way we watch games—and our enthusiasm for the games. If all goes well with America’s Cup this year, who knows what’s next…Ping Pong? Archery? But, for now, I look forward to catching the 2013 America’s Cup broadcast this year—and experience sailboat racing like never before.