CIO Blog: Is the 2017 America's Cup going to be all about sailing or technology?

CIO Blog: Is the 2017 America's Cup going to be all about sailing or technology?

Astute use of analytics was a key differentiator in the 2014 race, writes IT lawyer Jennie Vickers. What will be the key to success two years from now?

The venue of the 35th America's Cup must have been the worst kept secret around the sailing scene over the last few months of 2014.

Bermuda the chosen venue, so far, has only 17 hotels and potentially challenging infrastructure. However, Bermuda has made a promise to host an event that delivers for sailors, spectators and the armchair watchers relying on technology to deliver the experience.

Touring behind the scenes at the Cup last year visiting Animation Research’s San Francisco base, we got a glimpse of the scale of technology needed off the water to support the worldwide TV audience.

At the New Zealand Oracle User Group Conference late last year, Asim Khan (formerly CIO of Oracle Team USA) talked about the technology, on and off the water, that helped Oracle Team USA achieve the unthinkable in San Francisco.

Khan scotched all the cheating rumours that had been the more palatable choice in New Zealand, when the score line started moving the wrong way. Khan explained the seemingly sudden change of fortunes as coming from a range of actions, many of which date back to the beginning of the series.

According to Khan, as a result of the Oracle team being docked two points and having lost a sailor due to a rules infringement in the America's Cup World Series, they were under increased pressure to make sure there were no further rules violations.

Khan, enjoying having a technical audience, explained how the foil trimming system known as Herbie worked. It has been was well documented in sailing media and was the subject of heating chatroom debate. Despite the conspiracy theories, Herbie was in fact installed on the boat three weeks prior to the start of the regatta.

Read more: CIO Upfront: Big data, dumb data: When AI and reality collide

Summing up the other keys to success beyond ensuring rules were not broken, Khan’s message was that it came from a combination of technology, understanding the sailors better and automating communications, along with a critical clarity of goal.

Next: The crucial differentiator

Read more: Big rewards from big data – and some provisos

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