two steps back

ac dope

two steps back

We weren’t quite sure what to expect from the new, heavily streamlined new America’s Cup World Series program, but we certainly didn’t expect the broadcast to suck quite as much as it did, especially in 25 knots and big, steep seas. Feel free to check the Day 1 report here to see what we mean – here are our observations from the cheap seats:

  – Now that broadcast TV is paying attention (at least in France and Italy), the Youtube audience is the red-headed stepchild of ACTV. Gone is the multi-camera experience, replaced by a single feed with a Liveline option, both with the ACTV commentary track. Separate onboard cam feeds? Gone.

 With the Director from previous events amongst the big layoffs last month, the new direction is pretty much clueless. Commentators didn’t know who was sailing what, had no coordination with the cameras and on-water action, and even with a long delay between the two races, still didn’t know who was racing, who was out, and which sailors had been replaced before Race 2 started. Replays were almost non-existent, and graphics were weak. Two steps back…

  Somehow, the Youtube audience (and presumably the Comcast Sports San Francisco feed) have had pretty much everyone interesting pulled from the broadcast team. The young(ish), enthusiastic, knowledgeable commentary of Genny Tulloch, Peter Rusch, and even Annie Gardner (we know) has been replaced by that of Gary Jobson, who just celebrated his 254th birthday, and frankly we didn’t think it was possible for anyone to make cat racing in 25 knots seem dull. But Gary did it effortlessly. The cool and erudite commentary of former ACWS skipper Mitch Booth is still there, though the only member of the commentary team who still has any enthusiasm or excitement in his voice – golden-tongued boxing announcer John Rawlings – was constantly drowned out by Jobson at every opportunity. Never mind that Jobson didn’t know what leg it was, didn’t seem to know what he was watching, and couldn’t pronounce even an English name correctly, yet he still managed to get a few plugs in for Etchells sailing and other completely useless bits.

  The boats themselves were barely up to the task of 20-25 knots and steep chop – never mind the “3 to 33” that we’ve heard about so many times. Artemis went over and smashed their wing up so badly that T Hutch said they’d need a replacement for Thursday – and that’s without anyone doing a ‘Coutts’ through the wing. Spithill gave away the second race because Oracle-S’s wing had broken a frame (without a capsize), and he didn’t want to use the gennaker and risk the wing’s implosion. Bundock buckled a hull launching over a wave upwind. And China didn’t make the second race for an equipment problem but we’ve yet to find out why. Now we don’t mind a little carnage – far from it – but AC45’s ain’t quite what was advertised either.

  – As of midnight (6 AM in Naples), the AC folks STILL hadn’t posted the race replay online anywhere. This was the same task that took less than two hours during the last couple of events. Maybe they fired the guy with the specialized upload training.

With Jobson bringing the average age of AC commentating team up to Social Security qualification levels and the Youtube crowd getting the short end of the broadcast stick, it’s a safe bet that someone with the first initial “Larry” has finally and completely given up on seeking out the under-60 crowd that they so coveted just a few months back. Maybe their TV deals will get them whatever it is they’re looking for, but if they stay on a path that ignores everything they’ve so loudly hoped to achieve, look for AC34 to fail spectacularly when they finally to get to the national airwaves.

We’re pretty sure that plenty of us junkies will still be watching – after all, the alternative is actually working on a weekday – and maybe the poor performance from both sailing and broadcasting teams has more to do with a 5-month hiatus than it does with a fundamental policy shift. Here’s hoping.

Check in on the show tomorrow for Thursday’s match racing and then fleet racing here, beginning at 0800 Eastern time.