Sailing: America's Cup yachts pose new challenges for graphics crew

Greg Stutchbury
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Christening of Britannia the America's Cup race boat of INEOS TEAM UK in Auckland

By Greg Stutchbury

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Ian Taylor has helped bring the America's Cup to life for TV viewers since 1992 but he is slightly worried that the secret designs and sheer speed of the boats for next year's regatta may have left his computer graphics company in the dark.

The high-tech AC75 foiling monohulls are so fast, and their design and builds so secret, that Taylor is unsure how it will impact the graphics package his firm provides.

And with the first practice races for defenders Team New Zealand and the challengers set for next week, time is of the essence.

"We're testing all the data and software from next week," Animation Research's Taylor told Reuters by telephone from Dunedin.

"Nobody has seen the boats (in race action) and we haven't had any data from them in a proper environment.

"We had a simulated test about a month or so ago and it worked. We will give it a hammering (next week) and see how it goes," he added with a laugh.

Animation Research's graphics have been credited by sailing commentators with helping the casual fan follow the event, with the package showing real-time animations of racing.

The 3D and 2D animations are generated from data provided by the official race management system, but next year's regatta will also feature superimposed graphics over the top of live shots from the boats, broadcasters and aerial cameras.

"Everything we have been doing over the last 30 years is about visualising the data coming from the boats," he said.

"This is the first time that the graphics will be delivered from imagery rather than data.

"We have developed software that knows what the camera is looking at all of the time, where it's pointing, what the zoom is so we can then place our graphics on it."

Taylor said one of the major problems that German company Riedel Communications, which has built all of the systems that allow broadcasters to get live audio and video feeds from the boats, was that they had no idea what they were dealing with.

"They didn't get to see the boats because they're secret," he said.

Riedel also had to take into account the weight of their equipment and where it could be placed so as not to upset the yachts' balance as they raced at more than 50 knots (92kph) and also turned at high speed on their foils.

Taylor said viewers would be captivated by the boats.

"The thing that will be different in this America's Cup will be the boat. There has been nothing like it," he said.

"I was ... looking out the window (from a harbourside office building) when the boat went past and everyone was at the window and saying 'Look. At. That.'"

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)