Like every America's Cup team, ORACLE TEAM USA analyzes competitors' performance and racing tactics in search of a competitive advantage, and technology plays a key role in success. For starters, the team sends an observation boat to follow the training runs of competitors—standard practice, according to ORACLE TEAM USA sailor Murray Jones.
One task is to video the proceedings, which ORACLE TEAM USA uses to analyze how its competitors handle the onboard logistics of maneuvers such as tacking and jibing. "For example, some crew members go first to set up winches and some can go quite late, depending on the systems on the boat," says Jones. "They may do it differently on Artemis or New Zealand, and it's quite interesting to analyze to see if they do anything that we should look at."
Another job is to try to figure out how fast the boats are flying. "We use radar tracking and laser range to get a sense of boat speeds," Jones says. "It's not super accurate, as we don't have the competitors' wind speeds in the equation."
That will change now that the Louis Vuitton Cup has started, kicking off an open data policy that makes GPS positioning and other boat data available to everybody. "At that stage you can see the boat speeds or angles," says Jones. "It will be quite valuable and we'll be analyzing quite a lot." Because the Louis Vuitton Cup is for the challengers, it presents a data analysis boon for ORACLE TEAM USA, which uses Oracle Database to glean actionable insights.
"We will get a fair bit of data from the challengers, because they start well before us and go for quite a long time," says Ian "Fresh" Burns, ORACLE TEAM USA head of performance. "We'll certainly gain insight into the tactics and methods used in the racing."
They also turn to the past for insight, pulling data from the earlier AC45 World Series races, which featured smaller versions of the America's Cup boats. "We load that data into our database and then we can run tack and jibe analysis on all of the other skippers to build up some sort of matrix on what they're doing," says Asim Khan, performance database programmer and director of IT for ORACLE TEAM USA. "You can build up an idea of how teams race and that can affect your tactical decisions on the water when you come up against them."