The Virtual Eye (ARL's Sports Division) Sailing team was in Valencia last month to deliver their award winning live 3D-tracking graphics to the world at the much anticipated 33rd America’s Cup. The event in itself was a milestone, primarily for the complete redesign of the match racing yachts from single hulled 82ft yachts to 90ft trimaran and catamaran weapons, capable of speeds of over 40kts. During a practice day, the team clocked BMW Oracle travelling at 20-25kts in a breeze of just 5-7kts. The speed capabilities of the yachts resulted in a very large course being set. The start line was 30miles off shore, and this distance provided a complex challenge to overcome in getting the data from the boats back to land, in a reliable manner. Each yacht had two Igtimi µTrak units, which sent information about GPS position, speed, pitch and roll via UHF and cellphone networks. This data was received by two strategically positioned repeater boats, then combined and sent out to a land station on Monte Picayo using UHF and satellite. The data then travelled by microwave link to the Virtual Eye control room in the America’s Cup Port, where it was visualised and broadcast to the world via live television and internet.
ARL was given the green light on the contract on January 16th, with racing commencing just 23 days later. In this short space of time, a Virtual Eye team was established and mobilised to Valencia, along with 800kg of computers, tracking and broadcast equipment. Back in Dunedin, a team of modellers worked overtime to create digital replicas of the highly guarded yachts using a combination of images and videos found on the internet, and their own knowledge of boat movement and characteristics. The final product was a seamless integrated coverage package that allowed viewers from around the world to follow the racing between BMW Oracle and Alinghi. An estimated 2.16 billion viewers, across 216 territories watched via their TVs, while 656,000 logged on to the official website to experience the live feed online.