AC33, Communications Challenges

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From Dan Corcoran in Valencia, SP:  Because of the great speeds of the two sailboats, this America’s cup will be held further from shore and on a longer race course than those of recent memory, causing tremendous challenges communicating on the race course. Even the judges are unsure that they will be able to communicate successfully in boats equipped like the one pictured above with retractable towers for VHF communications and satellite dishes.

There will be three race courses the judges can choose from on the morning of the race, based on wind direction and speed. Each course is many hundreds of square miles, portions of which are over 40 miles from Valencia. Within those courses the finish line and race marks are from 13 to 20 miles away from the start line, and won’t be finalized until near the start of the race.

The vast majority of the official support and spectator boats will be positioned at the start line and race marks. With real limits on VHF and cell service over the race course, official boats and spectator boats not equipped with internet satellite links to receive a twitter feed of navigation information, will be challenged to reach the correct positions to support and observe this race at 10am local time.

Even with this capability, the official support boats are worried they can all be in position successfully for the race start.  This has never been done before on such a long race course, unless you consider that it was done repeatedly over 100 years ago when America Cup courses were once very long, but that was then.

With the weather conditions expected to be cloudy with winds of 10-12 knots, wind chill factors of 8 degrees Celsius, and a need to travel 15 or more miles offshore, this isn’t going to be a fun ride for spectator boats. As their reward each spectator boat that ventures into the cold is required to stay 500 meters away from the start line and racing marks.

A brave soul by the name of Mark is still looking for spectators to join him on a 45 foot powerboat he chartered to observe the race tomorrow. Departing from elsewhere in Spain and armed with paper diagrams of the race course, he is confident that he doesn’t need to come to Valencia first to follow an official boat. Mark wrote “I have diagrams of spectator areas. We can go to the jibe mark, bring warm layers and cameras.”

Mark has no internet satellite equipment, nor plans to get twitter feeds while he is within the very limited 10 mile range of cell service. Please post your thoughts about how Mark could best succeed in these conditions. Assuming he’s not lost tomorrow on a 3 hour tour, I want to know … as I unfortunately have tickets for Wednesday’s ride.

– Dan Corcoran is an avid sailor and leads ServiceSPAN a back office work center automation technology company.

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11 Responses

  1. Drac Verd says:

    I appreciate the effort that you guys are taking to cover this affair but I have a hard time relating to these vessels. Nothing they are learning can I use in my �old style� mono hull. Even with the high tech involved in prior races there was some bleed down.
    I do enjoy watching Formula 1 but this last of the Super Cats leave me cold!

  2. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Well, one thing we might learn is that high powered cellular Internet doesn’t cut the mustard off Valencia, despite claims to the contrary. I noticed Sailing Anarchy bragging about their Internet for Boats setup early on, but they haven’t mentioned it since, and I hear they’re trying to arrange a helicopter to forward their video feed.
    But, hell’s bells, does everything in this world have to be a learning experience, or even practical, Drac? Sorry, a little cranky here having gotten up super early just to watch a race postponement!

  3. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Hey, you can see a bunch of spectator boats gathered about 12 miles south of Valencia at, and also Larry Ellison’s 138M Rising Sun anchored at what is probably the windward mark.
    The iPhone app Ship Finder is seeing most of this too.

  4. Mark Witty says:

    I wasnt lost 🙂
    We knew the race committee could go anywhere and planned to follow the competitor�s out early, to find the start. We were almost not early enough at 7:30 but followed �rising sun� lights then the tall (68m) masts. Also tracking them on the radar.
    Rising sun set up at the start along with those that found the start area. Many arriving late but no matter, because the race didnt start on time, or indeed at all.
    Great pics of the competitors. Back out Wednesday.

  5. Sandy Daugherty says:

    I watched the first race on The production quality wasn’t there, but Jobson and Co. were. Interesting race with some entertaining moments. Its amazing what an absolutely unlimited budget can do. And I was stunned by Oracle’s ability to fly the center hull at an absolutely uniform height above the water. It had to have been automated.

  6. PimH says:

    I thought was pretty good, althought during the start (of all times!!) it did have to buffer a lot.
    Good, watchable quality, I can really recommended it. Just a shame Alinghi didn’t win…

  7. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    2nd race goes to BMW Oracle’s USA17, series winner of the America’s Cup.
    Way to go !

  8. denny-o says:

    I love these technological marvels… Jeez, 33 knots in 8.5 knots of wind ! ! !
    Having said that, the original deed of gift of the America’s Cup required that the boats be capable of crossing the Atlantic – neither of these boats can do that…
    When I am placed in charge of the world (as I deserve to be)I will enforce that provision of the deed of gift by requiring that the competitor boats cross the Atlantic first, then they have to sail the race course using the exact sails and rigging and ballast and equipment and crew, that they used crossing the pond…

  9. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    How impressed would you be if I told you Richard Gladwell reported from the water that USA17 got up to 22 knots of boat speed, and even flew it’s windward and center hull, in just 2 knots of wind (measured at 6 meters above the water).

  10. denny-o says:

    That technology will eventually trickle down to little guy yachts… Lessee, who will produce the first affordable cat, with a wing?
    Ans: Gougeon brothers already did it…

  11. robert says:

    Great article Dan.

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