Sailing-Virtual billboards in sight as SailGP targets other sports

FILE PHOTO: Sailing - Australia Sail Grand Prix - Sydney, Australia - February 19, 2023 General view during Race Day 1 Bob Martin/SailGP Handout via Reuters/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Bermuda's sparkling Great Sound offered the perfect arena last weekend for SailGP to showcase a media technology which it hopes will help the league backed by Oracle founder Larry Ellison reach new fans and be used by other sports.

As SailGP's futuristic F50 foiling catamarans flew up and down the Bermuda race course, a team in a studio in London were tracking their every move in near real time to make the racing more accessible to viewers on TV and online around the world.

SailGP's graphics package not only clearly shows the course boundaries, how fast the boats are moving and where they stand in the race on virtual "ladder lines", but also salient facts and figures about the 10 teams and their crews.

The technology, dubbed LiveLineFX, is now being developed for other sports, SailGP says, and could be extended to other sailing events, cycling, horse racing, long-distance running, skiing or even surfing.

SailGP, which is also experimenting with artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance the data which it is able to offer viewers, is not saying who is looking into using the package, which is based on live video, GPS and Oracle's cloud.

"There are a lot of sports out there where you could look at doing something like this," SailGP's Chief Technology Officer Warren Jones said on a call ahead of the Bermuda event, adding that it was possible to run virtual ads "at almost no cost".

Not only does centralising broadcast and graphics operations hugely increase the opportunities for sponsors and partners to display their logos and branding on virtual on-screen hoardings, SailGP says, it also saves money and cuts carbon emissions.

Jones and SailGP's Chief Content Officer Melissa Lawton also point to the potential for attracting new fans to sports where deeper explanation may be needed for people new to the rules.

"At the end of the day, you want to tell a story," said Jones, adding that SailGP's remote cloud-based technology was "far ahead of everyone else".

Lawton, who previously worked for Meta, says that what the graphics allow SailGP to do is grab the attention of more casual fans by telling them what they need to know.

"We want to give context to a complex sport," she said during a tour of the SailGP studios last week, adding that the snippets of information communicated visually through the graphics package are often the starting point for new fans.

"We are trying to break down barriers to entry."

(Reporting by Alexander Smith; Editing by Toby Davis)

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