Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Glimpse the future of windsurfing competition

Dave White's Driven by Wind event is on in England. Big names, putting up big speeds in (so far) conditions that are well below what's to be expected from this place. Remember, this is where Martin van Meurs already broke 50 knots for short bursts (on a suboptimal day), so there's huge potential here.

I've been stoked about what these guys are doing for competition; while I'm of a racer than a speedsailor, it's exciting to me how events like this, and the awesome success of the gps grassroots racing movement, have revived interest in going fast despite the industry and press drumbeat over the past decade or so (you know all that drivel about anything to do with competition or going fast being uncool and devoid of 'soul'... - different issue, though.)

What gets me really excited about this one, though, is not so much that there's a record attempt at a great venue, with official WSSRC observation (and thus the potential for a new all-out record and an official 500m run over 50 knots). Don't get me wrong, that's really cool, and it adds yet another opportunity to what's happening at the canal in France.

No, the really sweet thing about all this is that Dave has gone out and done what I've been dreaming about for years - he's put a real-time display on the web. Virtual spectator-type technology has been available for a while now; it's made America's Cup coverage interesting to the average person (that is anyone not immersed in sailboat racing) by showing clearly what's happening on a course. In this particular case the appeal is more about immediacy (after all, we don't really care which of these guys is where on the course, we just want to know how fast they're going). But the fact that this event, without million-dollar budgets, has been able to put this together is (besides being a huge credit to Dave and his buddies) proof that the technology has come down to a price-point that makes it feasible for mainstream use.

Imagine real-time gps tracks, along with real-time footage from helmet/boom cams, all packaged together with footage from start/chase boat cams. We've talked about it for years; we're finally at the point where it should be feasible to put it together for real events, then use it (a) to present to crowds on the beach (think big events in Europe where people actually show up to watch even if they're not married to any of the competitors) and (b) to put together a package for channels like OLN or Discovery or ESPN. Can you imagine what that would do to make it clear to people just how exciting racing sailboards (even course racing, which is notoriously hard to follow for spectators) can be? Remember - this kind of presentation made the America's Cup exciting to watch - and those guys go what, 8 knots?

Good times!

1 comment:

PeconicPuffin said...

I'm stoked that you're so excited. Looking forward to learning more about this.