Britain’s America’s Cup team, is led by the most successful Olympic sailor of all time Sir Ben Ainslie and over the weekend 23rd/24th July he steered Land Rover BAR to glory, claiming a tight one-point victory on the final day of the World Series event in Portsmouth. Britain now sits on top of the Americas Cup World Series league table.
Out on the water amongst the massive crowds and the worlds best sailors were the National Centre Cumbrae’s Chief Instructor David Frame and Instructor Tom Thurlow. After the success of last year Cumbrae was excited to be invited to support the delivery of this incredible event again. The Americas Cup Race Management (ACRM) has a small team of professionals who travel around the world delivering the racing and at each venue they require the support of the host country. David was tasked to pull together a team of 10 UK race officials to deliver the event in Portsmouth. “In many ways this year was straightforward, our starting point was to just do the same as last year! Inevitably though we had to recruit two or three new team members, as not all from 2015 could make it. We created a team that had each rib and position on the course filled with someone who had been there before. The ACRM team were impressed as having now taken the event around the world since we last worked together they had learned that the level of expertise and experience in the UK is second to none.
We also learned quickly! it’s not just the AC 45s (racing catamarans) that use the latest technology. This year the course was to be set using iPads, specially developed software and the cellular phone network. The committee boat sent “Target Mark” positions of all the marks to the iPads in each rib. The ribs towing the marks, also saw themselves as a live position on the iPad screen, they then towed the mark towards the target mark location and dropped when the two positions coincided. Changing individual marks and resetting the course was done on iPad all very clever and a little disorientating with your head down looking at the screen. Fortunately GPS back up coordinates positions were sent around the team for all the marks using a WhatsApp mark laying group. This took away the need for radio time to transmit and then confirm 9 different mark locations as the Lat and Long were all clearly displayed on the screen of your mobile phone. Once you had them it was fairly straightforward to move to that position.
The other aspect we needed to be aware of was the “digital overlays” of sponsors that would appear, but only on the TV screen! On the water it was difficult to judge where the BMW circle logo would appear but it was made clear that as main sponsor they didn’t want a rib sitting on their branding. Only when you see it on the TV screen do you appreciate there is the equivalent of a 90ft diameter BMW logo circle at the gate marks and they get it for free if your rib is on it!
Tens of thousands of spectators packed the shoreline to roar on the home side as they snatched overall victory in the World Series by one point. Ben Ainslie and the BAR team were all presented with winners’ medals by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. While behind the scenes and away from the publicity machine the Mark Laying team were praised by ACRM and the race teams. Jimmy Spithill Skipper Oracle Team USA said ”The event overall was awesome. I think it’s been one of the best Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series events” . Race Director Rob Andrews added his thanks “spectators and sponsors had a great weekend. We provided Stadium racing with a stadium full of spectators who are now fans of Americas Cup racing. Sailing has changed and all for the good of spectators, teams and sponsors your mark laying skills and accuracy allowed this style of sailing to be played out within a critical TV window. Once again the Cumbrae led team had performed very well on the International stage.
60 minutes of the 2016 Americas Cup World series story and action is available on BBC i -player until 20th August.