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Observations: AC World Series - Newport
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wetabix
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Jul 1, 2012, 1:45 AM

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So that was the Americas Cup World Series. A huge success in so many ways; brilliantly conceived and executed and the best sail race footage available by far. And yet on many levels it didn't work. When the wind was light and fluky the minor teams had a chance, but in a decent wind it was Spithill, Barker and Hutchinson nearly all the time. The supreme necessity for a good start which is then translated into a 600m lead kills the event. In match racing the commentators are unable to explain what the various prestart moves are so the most interesting three minutes of the race is wasted. The nationality thing continues to muddy the issue with the large British contingent being repeatedly described as Italians or Koreans while the crowd cheered the two 'American' boats which contained, I believe just one American between them.

All of which bodes ill for the main event. Spithill is going to win followed by ETNZ followed by Artemis. A hundred million dollars will be spent along the way.In a way this is within the spirit of the Cup - magnificent but futile.

I will be so sad not to see any more ACWS events - it was a superb effort, but I suspect that it is now an accepted fact that yacht racing cannot support itself financially as a spectator sport. Pity.

Rgds

George Morris

PS Meanwhile I have been unable to find a full replay of the Volvo in-port race. Why not? It was well filmed and highlights are available but I am not allowed to watch the whole race. Bizarre.





The Publisher
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Jul 3, 2012, 5:28 PM

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From Bill Canfield:
Wow! Who would have thought? St Thomas Yacht Club (St. Thomas, USVI) members voted to watch the European Soccer finals on Sunday rather than the live network coverage of the AC World Series from Newport. Sad to say the vote was not close. Curious to know how other club's votes went.

I guess it does not really surprise me because, as one who has watched every and all America's Cup coverage that has been available for past Cups, I have stayed strangely away from the excellent broadcast coverage of this one. I did try, but it just has not caught my interest for more than a few minutes. Give me the monohulls crashing through waves in Fremantle and I will be back. For now it's Spain vs Italy in the Euro Cup.


The Publisher
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Jul 3, 2012, 5:28 PM

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From John Sweeney:
In response to my good friend Bill Canfield's note declaring election results (in Scuttlebutt 3624) between the Euro Cup and the AC World Series, as an off-island member, I trust that the St Thomas Yacht Club contingent who would otherwise have voted to watch the ACWS were instead enjoying their Sunday on the water.


From Stephen Watson:
I'm so confused. Is the America's Cup still the elite event of the sport? If so, then why are the commentators on such a mission to turn it into a "Learn to Sail" class? The degree of over-talking and over-explaining (much of it wrong) has me reaching for the mute button.

Thankfully I had recorded the network show on Sunday, which allowed me to both fast forward through the painfully long fleet race (really, nine legs?), and rewind to confirm Russell Coutts' classic line after burning Jimmy Spithill off the start line of the Match Race Finals: "Pretty good for an old guy". Too bad there wasn't more onboard audio used.

In general terms I suspect there are two groups of people: the casual sailors and non-sailors who enthusiastically attend the events for the party atmosphere, and the active racers who find the broadcast to be the best way to closely watch the competition. But with the 'Green Fleet' level commentating, no wonder there were only a few thousand people watching on youtube.com




The Publisher
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Jul 3, 2012, 5:29 PM

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From Paul Grimes, Portsmouth, RI:
Regarding the AC World Series Event in Newport, I was a bit skeptical about the current plan for the 34th America's Cup but now I'm a fan. We can debate forever about boats, format, commentary, etc. but there is no question that the effort, ingenuity, and resources that have gone into the AC World Series are incredible - and the results are spectacular.

Here are a few observations from one who was lucky to see three days of the racing in Newport (one day from the race village at Ft. Adams, one from home on TV, and one from the water):
1. The view from Ft. Adams was great, the atmosphere was friendly, the commentary was fun, and the open/accessible setup of the race village was half the show. It's a great sign when pedestrians have to stop for a minute after the races because one of the AC 45's is being lifted out right over their waterfront walkway.
2. On TV, the coverage of the racing was amazing. When the AC 72's start racing in big breeze in San Francisco, I bet the ratings/interest will exceed the 1987 America's Cup in Fremantle.
3. On the water, this event really brought back memories of past America's Cups in Newport - huge spectator fleets, helicopters overhead, etc. However, it was even better to bring the racing right into Narragansett Bay. The race management was far above anything we've seen before, and Newport is a natural sailing stadium.

San Francisco is in for a huge treat - the AC World Series event next month will be an eye-opener, and when the AC 72's start racing next year, it will be unbelievable!



The Publisher
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Jul 3, 2012, 5:30 PM

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From John McCarthy, Hampton, VA:
I was ready to like the new format. I really was. "Don't be an old fart" rang in my head. But, after watching the coverage from Newport, my impression was that it was a thud. To me:
1. The speed doesn't translate. Two boats going 20k and two going 15k looks exactly the same. It's all relative.
2. The graphics are great. However, they would be equally as great with more traditional boats.
3. I raced for 25 years and am now a race officer and judge. I have an appreciation for the sport. However, there is nothing happening out there to which I can relate.
4. And, in the end, we will have 1/3 as many teams racing for the Cup. How is that good?

I would vastly prefer to see 50-60 ft boats, flying spinnakers (remember them??), tacking and jibing at close quarters, with crew not wearing helmets and space age suits. Put the cameras onboard, turn up the microphones so we can hear the sailors (more sailors, less Jobson), and show all the graphics you can. Most importantly, it might allow many more teams from around the world to join together (more often, seemingly, than three times per century) and race - sailboats!

I really did want to like it (since it's here) but I really didn't. San Francisco is safe from my $$$$.


The Publisher
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Jul 5, 2012, 7:31 AM

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* From Platt Johnson:
I have to agree with Mr. Watson. If the broadcasters feel so compelled, they should set up an online page with 'Learn to Sail' information and let the racer's voices come through from the onboard Mics with profanity bleeped if you must. No one tries to teach people to drive while watching the Indy 500. "Take our word for it folks, a sailboat can't go straight into the wind."


* From RJ Lewy:
Regarding Stephen Watson's comments, saying the AC World Series broadcast commentary was too close to a "Learn to Sail" class, perhaps he has forgotten that sailing is a foreign language to all non-sailors and equally foreign to a lot of the people who claim to be sailors. So, like any foreign language, if you expect people to listen to you, you need interpreters.

Without the masses to watch sailing on TV, there is no sponsorship. Without sponsorship, there is no sailing on TV. So, get off of your high horse and find a way to contribute to the sport and leave the whining to the immature. In other words, if you are not part of the solution - you are part of the problem, so get on or get out of the way.


From Bill Seifert:
I remember being on America 2's tender in Auckland for the Louis Vuitton series. Everybody watched the first start on deck, but then there was attrition to the large screen TV below deck. Most of us watched the broadcast coverage which was so good and interesting. Viewing up close sure beats being a quarter to half a mile away.

In Newport, I tried watching from shore, both directly and the Jumbotron. Thanks to Stan Honey and his crew, watching the broadcast with course limits and lay lines delineated provided reasons for some maneuvers which were not apparent from shore. The broadcast makes the races interesting as a spectator sport.


The Publisher
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Jul 5, 2012, 10:02 AM

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From Tony Johnson:
In regard to the recent comment by Stephen Watson concerning the play-by-play on these telecasts, I am very sorry to say that I concur with Mr. Watson, but find even more areas for improvement.

I was just watching the Tour de France and could not refrain from wistfully comparing the comments of the narrators to those on the AC World Series races. Visually, the two events are not as far apart as one might think. A bunch of guys are riding bikes on roads. Little happens save the occasional crash and the last five minutes of drama. Yet during the slow moments the commentators kept up a fascinating mix of anecdotes, racing strategy, history, and local lore that did a good job of holding our attention for a three hour period. When the finish line approached, their voices perfectly rendered the excitement and tension of the moment.

By comparison, the World Series commentators offered no tales of past races, characters in the history of the sport, tactical subtleties, legendary battles, personal bios of the participants, behind-the-scenes gossip, or technical details about the new boats. They hardly said anything that you couldn't have observed with the sound turned off. At the very least, as Mr. Watson indicates, one would have hoped for a somewhat more sophisticated look at the races than just observing that a boat was way behind or that they hadn't reached the lay line yet.

Added to this is the passionless, toneless delivery. Being a great sailor no more makes you a great on-the-air analyst than does being a great musician or ball player. It's another art form. Vin Scully, for example, never played baseball.

It would be a missed opportunity if this were to continue to the Cup itself. There will never be a sailboat race with better video coverage than this one, and I would hate to see the potential for excitement ground down to a bland soup by the commentary.


From David Shulman:
NBC watches a week of sailing and we got to see only glimpses of the exciting parts during the opening and closing credits, which sandwiched two somewhat dull last day events. No analysis, no instant replays, just watching grass grow. If this was meant to stimulate interest, the only interest I felt was in raiding the fridge. Real sorry!


The Publisher
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Jul 8, 2012, 3:07 PM

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From Ron Homa, Boston:
At 48 years, I have been racing now for 37 years in most of the boats and in most of the events available in the US. As a kid growing up sailing, there was nothing bigger than the America's Cup. The 1983 Match seemed like the end of the earth and 1987 felt like redemption. And while age and maturity have tempered many things, my passion for the sport still burns brightly...even when pushing through the pain of aging knees during a weekend of team racing against kids half my age.

Newport is a quick trip from my home north of Boston and I have done more than one round trip drive for a race day there or to watch my children race or just to walk the beach. Yet there was nothing compelling me to make the trip for this AC event. I did watch Sunday on TV while channel hopping to the Euro Cup (a sport for which I have no passion)...and why?

The broadcast was flat, the teams convoluted (mixed nationalities), and the personalities of the racers largely absent (helmets don't help...that's why the NFL has names on jerseys). I felt like I was watching some odd exhibition best called "Cirque Du Soleil du mer" as the crews bounced around on the netting. To an experienced racer endlessly listening to explanations of basic rules was mind numbing. Some real tactical observations would have been more enjoyable.

So after the thrill of the boats' speed wore off, there wasn't much of interest to watch. At that point it was more interesting watching the Euro Cup despite the clear domination of the Spanish...and no they are not just Spanish in name. The passion of the fans was palpable, the personalities larger than life, and the broadcast team did not dumb down the call. I was left to figure it out and I did ...which is more than I can say for the AC World Series Newport.


The Publisher
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Jul 8, 2012, 3:08 PM

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From Ed Vitrano:
‘"Learn to Sail" class . . . The degree of over-talking and over-explaining . . . casual sailors and non-sailors’ . . . isn’t that the point? The NBC coverage (first network in 20 years) was intended to attract the uninformed, not the hard-core cynics who seem to delight in pointing out where the efforts to bring sailing into the mainstream have failed.

I posted Saturday’s YouTube coverage to my Facebook page and many of my 300+ “friends” expressed interest in watching Sunday’s coverage . . . and did. The speed of the boats, hearing the commands, the crew work on board, the athleticism . . . it was all on display and I say well done! While Gary was a bit droll at times, I was able to switch to my cable coverage and listen to the guys who spoke my language, albeit with an accent. However, I saw more lead and position changes this weekend, and under speed, than I’ve seen on any mono-hull race for years. The setting, while I’m still partial to the San Francisco Bay area, was startling in its beauty. It was all good.

My complaint? The cable company had the event listed as “Yachting” . . . Yachting!? It was Sailboat Racing . . . and with the best talent in the world.

I say let’s get behind this effort . . . not delight in pointing out where there was failure (less than anticipated attendance; failure to cover a capsize; fewer than anticipated teams; my-oh-my). Apparently, from my Observation, change is hard for Curmudgeons.


From Peter Wormwood:
As a sailor, the "Green Fleet" commentary in the America's Cup broadcasts is definitely tedious. Although I don't know or understand the nuances of NFL football or World Cup soccer, I thoroughly enjoy watching the games and listening to the commentators' educated comments about the action. I don't expect them to educate me about the basics of the sports. Rather, I expect sophisticated insights. Watch any sport for awhile and the basics will become self-evident.

Watching a sport that is new to you with the expectation that the announcers will teach you the sport, rather than provide expert commentary, is like going to a foreign country and expecting the locals to speak your language because you don't understand theirs.


From Richard Jepsen, CEO, OCSC Sailing:
In reply to your query about opinions on AC Commentating, as the owner of a sailing school and sailing club, I get to see a couple of different sides. We have brand new sailors as well as trained, but relatively new sailors in our program.

We projected Sunday’s racing (from NBC) during class lunch break and the new sailing students were enthralled. In fact, one of our club managers added additional explanation and commentary to help them better understand the nuances of chasing current relief and rules like the three boat length circle. The more experienced members who were in to go sailing on their own also enjoyed the broadcast, without a complaint about being talked down to.

Personally, while I found the commentary a tiny bit ‘over-explained’ at some points, it didn’t bother me much at all and I really enjoyed the visual spectacle. I admit that I kept visualizing what this is going to look like in August with 20 knots of wind daily when the road show comes to our San Francisco Bay. I think that visual spectacle will overwhelm any over-explanation that might occur.

Overall, given the situation in which the AC finds itself and the effort it is making to further popularize sailing, it seems to be the smart move to ensure that the demographic of new sailors or racers is educated during broadcasts.


From Roger Marshall:
I live about three hundred yards from the Newport AC course. I can walk down the street and watch the event live from the Jamestown headland. I consider myself pretty clued in to sailboat racing having a few racing miles under my belt. I am also a major skeptic about the way the AC has developed.

Watching from shore told me basically nothing. One wing sail went ahead, but with the spectator fleet in the way it was hard to tell which boat was actually in front. Even people who went out on boats to watch found it hard to tell what was going on. On Sunday I watched Stan Honey's creation on TV. What a difference! The commentary was inane (for Gary's information we have a 4 foot rise and fall of tide on a moon tide, not ten), but the course lines, tacking and onboard video was very, very good. It would have been even better if we could have heard the crews more often instead of being told where the layline is. That could easily be done with text. Kudos to Honey for what he and his team have developed. Every person I have spoken to, said the event was far easier to read on TV than on the course, and that includes many good sailors.

The event should not be shelved while we wait for the AC, but should be built into a real circuit racing monthly in different ports AKA NASCAR, It would have world wide appeal to hype the AC. Hold the AC every four years as the Championship/reward event in the same way that NASCAR uses the Chase to determine the winner. The difference from NASCAR is that the AC Series would be worldwide. With the way it was marked on TV by Honey's crew, anybody could understand it. As a worldwide NASCAR style series it will develop the sailors who will sail the AC in future years, create a pool of top sailors and become the event that could bring sailing to the masses. Just don't cover the boats with sponsor decals.




The Publisher
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Jul 8, 2012, 3:09 PM

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When watching any sport, you are wondering about the next move, the next play, and then judging the execution of that move. I have found the most interesting aspects of the AC broadcast to be the video/graphics and the onboard audio. If the use of the onboard audio is increased, and the commentators augment that with tactical insight of what to anticipate, perhaps their goal of creating a new group of expert viewers can be fulfilled.

- Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt




The Publisher
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Jul 9, 2012, 10:38 AM

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From: peterdmuir(at)aol.com
Date: Mon, 9 Jul 2012 09:57:29 -0400 (EDT)

Regarding comments from sailors about the AC TV coverage and commentary. Some sailors, who know sailboat racing felt it was poorly done, too basic. I wonder if they have talked to any non-sailors? I was with a group of non-sailors this past weekend in Newport and they all thought the coverage was "superb", "talking to them", "it all makes sense now" and so on. I believe that was the idea wasn't it?


wickfordsailor
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Jul 23, 2012, 1:23 PM

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I think you are talking about people that were there watching LIVE from Fort Adams. For me the commentary on shore was informative and interesting with the right balance of humor and technical. Tucker on the water and Andy Green seemed to have excellent rapport and the TV could learn alot from how they engaged their audience. They seemed to blend basics of sailing with more complex insight without being condescending. We need more of this young enthusiasm.


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