We’ve waited a week to comment on the TV production coming out of Cascais for the first round of the America’s Cup World Series. So far, the revolution has had a slow start, and the lack of wind at the venue hasn’t helped the messaging, but there are signs of innovation coming and today, the America’s Cup has announced further advances through a partnership with YouTube.
The biggest problem with the America’s Cup ‘TV’ product was the expectations set by the America’s Cup Event Authority and their PR machine. While some might have chosen to be cautious and warn fans that the first event might have some glitches and technical issues, ACEA instead promised us a televisual experience like none that has ever come before.
Against past sailing telecasts, the America’s Cup TV offer is ok. Against the hype that preceded it, the product is pretty disappointing.
The new America’s Cup seems confused as to who the audience is. On the one hand, the opening sequence to most videos is set in a post-apocalyptic red sky black water thunderdome – as if the San Andreas fault has opened up and the sailors are trying to escape Alcatraz on wing-sailed catamarans. This is in stark contrast to the team introduction videos that have a choir-boy soundtrack for the opera loving facebook kids out there.
Microphones and cameras on the sailors on the boats is great, and it’s great to see the America’s Cup pick that up from the telecasts of the Australian 18 foot Skiffs in the 80′s. But sailors aren’t going to change the language they use with each other, so commentators are going to have to translate the language on the boat for the millions of new sailing fans that the America’s Cup is trying to attract with their marketing campaign.
Despite the stated aim of making sailing more simple and easy to understand, the America’s Cup World Series event format is more complicated than test match cricket. One way to simplify it would be to drop the speed trial event completely.
As a piece of television it is just boring. Perhaps because it was the first go, the commentators didn’t seem to know what was going on, there was no visible start-line, no visible finish line, the clock seemed to start 10 or 15 seconds into a run as the producers missed the sailors going for their runs.
The America’s Cup has falsely compared itself to F1 and it really should pay more attention to the way F1 runs its telemetry and scoring graphics. Qualifying would be the bit to copy. Even the Green, Pink and Yellow timing and scoring system would work. Pink for fastest run of the session, green for the fastest lap by that boat and yellow for all others.
On Thursday, we saw some of the promised graphic overlays which integrate the telemetry data from Virtial Eye onto the live action. The producers are obviously trying to get some nationalistic fervor going by putting little cocktail flags on each boat (just in case you can’t see the huge flag painted on the sail). The flags are that of the yacht clubs, not the skippers.
Given the amount of money the America’s Cup is spending on its TV production, the results are really quite average. Earlier in the week, the Extreme Sailing Series also streamed a live telecast of its racing and despite spending a tiny fraction of the money, the result was as good as the America’s Cup product.
It’s the first event. Some of it has never been done before. Despite an entire practice event, the television revolution in sailing hasn’t happened yet. That’s not to say that it won’t – it just needs a lot more work. Hopefully, the fact that the stream is being hosted by YouTube, gives the organisers some insights into who the audience actually is, and the America’s Cup can give up trying to appeal to ‘every sports fan in the world,’ and focus on the fans.