Media experimentation at the SAP 505 Worlds
It was a day off from racing at the SAP 505 World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, but the visitors continue to pour into the event website.
German interest in the regatta has been particularly strong, with fans following the dominant progress of Wolfgang Hunger and Julien Kleiner who are in firm control of the event at just past the half way stage.
What has caused greater surprise for event organiser Thomas Capitani, from Sailing Aarhus, is that more than 23,000 individual visitors from 77 different nations have logged on to follow the progress of the 126 teams competing in the Bay of Aarhus.
“Traditional media such as newspapers and TV have interests in just three sports - football, football and football,” says Capitani. “There isn’t much room for a so-called minority sport such as sailing to get air time in traditional media, but we know that globally there is a massive interest in sailing. So we have been using the SAP 505 World Championships as an opportunity to experiment with a number of different social media and digital technology to bring the thrill of the competition to that global audience.”
The website brings together a range of different content, from Twitter feeds, live TV commentary streamed in real-time on the Internet, GPS tracking, photos wired to Flickr, and in-depth technical race analysis from software giant, SAP, the 505 class sponsor. Some of the boats are carrying camera phones that live-stream images of the sailors back to shore. “What is happening at the 505 Worlds is not a one-off venture, but just the start of an ongoing development of technology that we believe will help communicate the excitement of sailing to a wider audience on media that people - and especially kids - are already using. Things like Facebook, YouTube, the places where they are already spending time online,” says Capitani.
The other special aspect of the technology project in Aarhus is that all of the hardware and software is either free or low-cost. The camera mounts that attach the camera phones to the back of the 505s cost around $50 or less, with all of the parts available from a local hardware store. “I love what the America’s Cup and other big league sailing events are doing with new technology,” says Capitani, “but the cost is prohibitive for lower level sailing events. So what we are trying to do here in Aarhus is show that, OK, you may not be able to match the quality of the high-end technology, but you can still achieve a great deal with technology solutions that are affordable for even your average sailing club.”
Capitani says the secret to making this project work is the bringing together of a number of parties that all share a common goal of wanting to grow the media and the public interest in sailing. “We’re fortunate to have small Danish companies such as TracTrac and StreamFactory.dk providing the technology, along with the expertise and enthusiasm of the Active Institute, part of the University of Aarhus. With private businesses, the university and the City all working together on a project like this, it’s hard to imagine too many other places being able to put together what we’ve done here.”
Tomorrow, 505 fans will be tuning in again to follow the live action from races 6 & 7. So far the series leaders, Hunger and Kleiner, have proven strong in every wind condition from light to heavy, but the chasing pack will be hoping they can get one over the Germans at this crucial stage of the contest.
The 2010 SAP 505 World Championship is organised by Sailing Aarhus in cooperation with Sport Event Denmark, Sport Aarhus Event and the Danish Sailing Association. With a strong focus on innovation and new technology to promote sailing to a wider audience, Denmark and the City of Aarhus are bidding for the ISAF Worlds 2014, the most prestigious regatta next to the Olympic Games.