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America’s Cup: The Battle of Virtual Tacticians

Published on April 24th, 2017

While the hyperspace speeds of the America’s Cup Class boats hopes to build a viewing audience, the competition in Bermuda will still come down to teams making race-winning decisions.

But in the absence of a dedicated decision-maker, who makes the call? With a helm, a wing-trimmer, and four people desperately providing the power to supply the hydraulic systems, everyone literally has their hands full.

The answer comes from the computing systems that each team has developed.

British challenger Land Rover has designed their system for use on a tablet screen and a smart watch, and for it to provide critical data about the strategic layout of the course, the position of the boat, how many legs of the race are left, and how far it is to the next boundary.

“We were desperate for a tactical aid which could act as a virtual seventh crew member and become central to our decision making process during the race, providing Ben (Ainslie) and I with the data that we really need to gain a competitive advantage,” said tactician and Olympic gold medallist Giles Scott.

The system can also tell the team exactly when to power up and accelerate so that they cross the start line at the precise moment of the start, gaining a critical advantage from the very beginning by getting the team in front at Mark 1. The British team expects the leader at this point to win up to 80% of the races.

Interestingly, during the last monohull America’s Cup in 2007, Alinghi won the series 5 to 2, leading around the first weather mark in four out of the five races… or 80% of the time. Here is Alinghi’s final win… with now defense skipper Jimmy Spithill as a commentator.

Background: The 35th American’s Cup has attracted six teams (5 challengers and 1 defender) that will compete in the new 15-meter AC Class, with a series of qualifiers beginning on May 26, 2017 that lead to the start of the America’s Cup Match on June 17, 2017. Complete schedule.

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