The lack of support of the BBC for sailing is to a degree understandable given the low viewing figures it gets. But that got me wondering (again on the train over the weekend) if there could be a better way of covering it.
To be honest even though I’m into sailing all too often it’s very boring to watch. All you ever see is a short clip of sailor in boat, which almost always looks like the pic above. You have no real idea where the rest of the fleet are and why he or she is doing well or badly unless the sailor is sitting on the upside down hull of the boat swearing a lot.
It would be like covering football on TV by only showing a short clip which is always a player running with a ball – how dull would that be? Football coverage works because the viewer can quickly see a) what is happening and b) what one side did that meant they won.
To enjoy a sail race it’s really necessary to understand a lot about what is going on – the position of all the boats, the wind direction, the markers, course etc and that can’t be done just with a close up shot of one boat.
One way that works pretty effectively is the Virtual Spectator approach used in the America’s Cup (below).
This shows a lot of information and is a great way of feeling part of the race, and there is no reason it couldn’t be used on even Laser races with small GPS based trackers. In addition there could be boat-cams to not just see technically what the sailors are doing but also to get emotional feedback from their expressions. As well as video could also have audio – one of the best bits of the last but one America’s Cup was listening to the crew of New Zealand give their pretty ripe opinions on the failings of their boat after its mast came crashing down.
One way to cover the 2012 sailing could be for the organisers to use something like Virtual Spectator to produce a more interesting feed that can be transmitted by broadcasters around the world.
But that could be a bit too centralised and 20th Century. Why not open up all the data over the internet to make it available to mash-ups? Allow anyone, BBC, broadcaster or blogger to select their video, audio, and animation to produce their own view. Make the data available in some generic XML based format so that there can be a choice of third party tools, from Virtual Spectator to Google Earth, to follow the action and see the boats and wind in a computer generated easy to follow form.
Having that data available digitised means it could also be used after 2012 as the raw data for sailing games. Imagine Wii Sail where you can try to beat Ben Ainslie (good luck).
And why stop at just sailing? Why not make 2012 the first web based virtual Olympics so that all the actions of all competitors are available digitally, online, forever?