Sunday was my first live America's Cup viewing experience. I had watched numerous highlight videos online but all of the uncontested races and mechanical failures in races made me concerned that the races would work better as two-minute "have you seen this" viral videos than as a live sporting event. After watching the broadcast yesterday, my fears are for the most part alleviated and most importantly it makes me excited to watch the rest of the races.
1. There is no substitute for close racing. When Oracle Team USA and Emirates were racing neck and neck in race 1 on Sunday, my family and I were literally on the edge of our seats, glued to the television screen as the two boats traded jabs and hay makers in the form of tacks and gybes. However, once New Zealand took the lead halfway through and began to pull away I felt myself sink back into the couch and the conversation drifted away from what was happening on screen and no amount of cool camera angles or on screen graphics could make up for it.
2. You can't have too many cameras. There seemed to a camera perfectly positioned for nearly every situation that arose during the race. The helicopter shots were great for beauty shots of the boats against the backdrop of San Francisco and illustrating the tactics when the boats took different lines to a mark. The many onboard cameras gave a an up close view of the work of the crew and showed how close the boats came to one another on multiple occasions. The onboards were also great for instant replays such as when Oracle Team USA nosedived into the waves rounding the first mark of race 1 resulting in a penalty against the Kiwis. The mix of these two primary camera angles suceeded in giving a good sense of exactly how fast the boats were traveling through (or really on top of) the water.
Team New Zealand penalty from all angles
3. Liveline worked like a charm. The onscreen graphics invented for the 2013 America's cup were crucial to the fact that I never felt lost as to what was going on in the race. Some of the graphics like the blue dots showing the path of turbulent air off of the windward boat were interesting bonuses while others were indispensable to my understanding of the race. The real time boat speed indicators on top of the masts and the arrow displaying the distance between the boats allowed to always know who was ahead and whether or not one boat was gaining ground on the other.
Liveline graphics on full display at the start
4. The onboard audio has potential. Both skippers are mic'd up throughout the races letting viewers hear what it is like on these boats in addition to watching it. However with all of the wind on the boats in addition to the skippers strong Kiwi and Australian accents it can often be a challenge to understand what they are saying. Not sure if there is a solution to this boat the skippers audio has the potential to be among the best parts of the broadcast if it can be cleaned up a little.
5. The commentary mixed technical knowledge with insights for the casual viewer. The NBC commentary team (including Annapolis' own Gary Jobson) did a good job keeping the casual viewer, who may have never been on a sailboat before, informed while never appearing as though they were dumbing down the broadcast too much. You may have rolled you eyes when an onscreen box was put up explaining what a gybe was, but it was probably a great help to your brother in law watching from Kansas.