Monday, November 21, 2011

Changing the lexicon of sailing

Our sport is complicated. What sport isn't? But if you sail enough, the obstacles soon disappear...except this one: right and left.

Pre-start strategy includes assessing the upwind leg. "I'm liking the right. Definitely more wind to the right." And sure enough, half way up the beat, the boats on the right are ahead.

Nearing the windward mark, it's time to assess the downwind leg. "The right still looks solid. Puffs are coming from the right." After rounding the windward mark, the boats gybe to the left to get the wind from the right... looking upwind.

The course is viewed again during the run. "The boats behind are gaining on the left. More wind to the left now. We need to get to the right...looking downwind." So the leaders gybe to protect, heading to the right to get the wind on the left."

Soon it's time to choose which gate mark to round. "I think the right gate is closer. Yes, definitely closer." This is good as the wind is still strongest on the left... looking upwind.  

And on it goes.

During the broadcast of the America's Cup World Series (ACWS) in San Diego, the commentators would have this same conversation. As the AC45s were zig-zagging throughout the bay, there would be confusion if their right and left references weren't followed by "looking upwind".

I was thinking how complicated it sounded. At a time when commentators need to be analyzing more and explaining less, they had to turn the listener's head for every reference to the wind. And this was assuming the listener knew how to "look upwind".

So what if we used green and red?

These colors have long been associated with right and left, starboard and port. Stan Honey, who has developed all the broadcast graphics for the ACWS, said he could stripe the sides of the course green and red. He could also paint the gates green and red at the upwind and downwind ends of the course. Could the lexicon of sailing be changed to colors?

"There is definitely more wind on the green side," said the broadcast commentator. "The leaders downwind are coming from the green side, and the key decision of the leg will be when to gybe. The tea
m that nails their approach to the green gate will have the advantage to own the green side on the next upwind leg."

I can hear it now.

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At 7:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to be difficult, but, your photo of a guy wearing red & green socks is fine...uUNTIL he is face-to-face with ANOTHER GUY wearing red & green socks! Which red?? :)

At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Craig, Good idea but... Since the boats go up and down wind, the wind swaps sides, not to mention tacks and gybes. And you want to be lifted upwind and headed downwind. However the name of the shore locations is constant. In SF - the City vs. Marin, in San Diego - the dock side vs. Coronado(whatever landmarks can be seen on TV). Most non sailors understand the wind will shift or change directions, they need help understanding how it changes the playing field. Telling them the wind is stronger(better) from one or the other visible landmark will help them to see the "invisible" wind. The wind shifts or direction could be overlayed on the screen, but it might get too cluttered.

At 10:58 AM, Anonymous Scuttlebutt said...

The sides of the course would be painted in regard to the wind direction. The green is the right side and the red is the left side. This would be automatically done with the broadcast graphics. If the wind shifted 180 degrees, the colors could shift with the course.


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