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America’s Cup wins Sports Emmy

The LiveLine graphics technology developed for the America’s Cup yachting has won an Emmy for technical innovation, writes David Fox. The AC World Series starts its last European event today in Venice.

The LiveLine graphics technology developed for the America’s Cup yachting has won an Emmy for technical innovation, writes David Fox. The AC World Series starts its last European event today in Venice and has brought a new, more accessible approach to yacht racing, not only in its use of live graphics and on-board cameras, but also the short course, near-shore format. The LiveLine technology, which is based on systems used for American football and NASCAR car racing, was recognised by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for helping to make sailing more welcoming to new fans and providing precise data for race management. “We’re honoured by this award. At the core, this team’s efforts are driven by a passion for sports and connecting people to sports they otherwise might not have the opportunity to view,” said Stephen Barclay, interim CEO, America’s Cup Event Authority. “Stan Honey [the America’s Cup Director of Technology] and the rest of the team are to be commended for their role in developing this technology that is assisting America’s Cup to be broadcast internationally. This Emmy recognises that this technology helps new fans and veteran racers to enjoy a spectacular visual experience in a way never before imagined.” LiveLine superimposes graphics on the screen as a technical aid for viewers, like lines that show how far ahead or behind boats are to each other (not something that is always easy to discern as each AC45 catamaran takes its own course between markers), and also shows the race course boundaries, wind direction, boat speed, etc. All these are superimposed on a shot from a rapidly moving helicopter or from boats buffeted by wind and waves. The technology was developed for the America’s Cup broadcasts by the America’s Cup Event Authority, Sportvision and NBC Sports Network and is driven by a GPS system that can track the catamarans to within a 2cm accuracy on the race course. The event organisers also use the system for on-the-water management. Telemetering of the course allows for rapid movement of marks and controlling course limits, while use of realtime overlap and zone-entry determinations enable umpires to make the most accurate decisions ever possible. The team that developed the technology is made up of: Honey, LiveLine Project Manager Ken Milnes, Onboard Media Manager Mark Sheffield; key America’s Cup management personnel including Denis Harvey, Richard Worth, Gary Lovejoy and Tim Heidmann; and Sportvision team members Jim McGuffin and Alan Trimble. LiveLine won the George Wensel Technical Achievement Award ahead of the Hot Trax/Hot Spot used by Fox for NASCAR and baseball telecasts, the Diamond Platform used by baseball’s MLB Network, and ESPN’s 3D coverage of the Masters golf tournament. Venetian challenge Having attracted record crowds of more than 500,000 in Naples (with 70 hours of live coverage broadcast globally), the AC World Series has now moved to Venice, to take part in a festival of sailing that began last Saturday, with the World Series races starting today (finishing on Sunday). The race course is one of the narrowest and most challenging in competitive sailing, and has the most spectacular backdrop, taking in the Grand Canal, the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Square. “The magnificent waterways of Venice and its stunning Grand Canal will provide an exceptional arena for the AC45s,” said Regatta Director Iain Murray. “The mix of courses and the tricky winds will provide more challenging racing than ever.” There are two courses: one in the open sea, in front of San Nicolo del Lido (the Lido Race Course); and one in the lagoon (the San Marco Race Course), between Lido island (where the television compound is situated), the basin of San Marco and the Punta della Dogana. The 2011-12 AC World Series will conclude at the end of June in Newport, Rhode Island, home of the Cup from 1930 to 1987. Photographs: ACEA/Gilles Martin-Raget