The Extreme Sailing Series 2013. Act7. Nice. France Credit: Lloyd Images
SAP, a German technology company with a rich history in extreme sailingsponsorships and analytics, has developed a new virtual-reality experience that places fans on a replica catamaran, where they can watch sailors race up close alongside a stream of relevant data.
“When you get to sit on the boat virtually, you almost feel how it lifts up and picks up speed,” said Milan Cerny, the technology and innovation lead of SAP’s Global Sponsorships business.
Sitting atop a trampoline on a mock-up of an actual GC32 Catamaran, users will wear headsets that place them alongside extreme sailors on the hull while being fed information from a number of sensors that toss key data points, such as real-time wind conditions, boat speed and water currents, throughout the race.
“We want to show how data comes into play, what it means to sail,” said Cerny. “It’s kind of a playful way for the fan to understand what’s relevant in which situations. For example, when the boat is doing a maneuver, it’s important to keep an eye on the speed to see how much speed the boat loses as it’s going through a tactile movement.”
The SAP+You: The Smarter Skipper experience is designed to provide fans with insights and transparency into the sport of extreme sailing, something they often can’t access when they’re watching races from the sidelines. It makes sailing more tangible, Cerny said.
“In virtual reality, you’re in the middle of the action,” he said. “You’re getting the thrill, understanding what’s going on and how (sailors) are interacting with what devices on the boat and deciding where they should go. You could see how far competitors are behind you, if they’re approaching the boat. It’s an interactive way and playful way to understand the measures that are important to win a race.”
After premiering at Kieler Woche, the world’s largest sailing event, at the end of June, SAP said the virtual reality experience will be expanded to major events this year, helping to visualize the data produced during high-speed races on the GC32Catamaran.
SAP has been providing analytics to the extreme sailing industry since 2012. It created a leaderboard last year that allows fans to keep tabs on the action from the sidelines and provides data to teams so that sailors can improve upon their performance after races.
Cerny says there are still many ways SAP is envisioning how its technology might be able to transform the sailing industry in the future, including how data can improve the actual functionality of the boats themselves.
In time, he said, sailors might also rely more heavily on technology while in the boat during races.
“We’ve come a long way already,” he said. “And there’s still a lot of potential to address.”