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The coolest tech from the America's Cup

Emirates Team New Zealand has won the America's Cup! To celebrate, we're republishing this story.

Originally published June 20, 2017: The America's Cup is far more than just a boat race - it's also an opportunity to showcase some pretty sweet tech. We pick our five favourites.

Unless you’ve been living under an actual rock (or somewhere other than Aotearoa) then you’re well aware that the America’s Cup is in full swing – er, sail.

And there’s a whole lot more to the proceedings than simply fast boats racing each other. We take a look at some of the cool tech being used in this year’s edition.

Bikes on boats

You read the above correctly.

Basically, Emirates Team New Zealand have replaced arm-powered winches on their boats with cycles, which are operated in much the same way as an exercise bike. The idea is that the legs can generate more power – and do not tire as easily – as a person’s arms.

The idea of using a cycle for something other than bicycling or stationary exercise is not a new one, either. For instance, at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, cycles in the terminal help turn waste into compost. Such initiatives have helped the airport be consistently ranked as the most sustainable airport in the world.

High-tech paint

The paint company Resene has been helping Team New Zealand in its quest for victory by providing it with special paint that’s lighter than regular paint. The team’s catamaran is coated with Durepox Xtreme and Durepox paint. Since the paints are lighter than normal paint, they reduce the boat’s overall weight – making it possible for it to move faster.

While Resene won’t give out the formula of the special paint for fear it’ll be copied, the company has also coated boats belonging to Britain, Japan and Sweden with the same paint.

Wings

No, not the band: actual wings. Or close approximations of them.

A standard of America’s Cup tech are sailing hydrofoil, hydrofoils, which are wing-like designs mounted under the boat’s body (called the hull). As the vessel increases its speed, the hydrofoils lift the hull up and out of the water. This reduces drag, and increases speed.

Once considered a novelty, foils are now an essential design element of any America’s Cup boat. And as the tech improves, the question naturally becomes: could the America’s Cup one day be a flying event rather than a sailing one?

Cutting-edge tracking tech

Don’t understand much about how the America’s Cup works, or who’s winning? That’s no problem with Virtual Eye.

The Virtual Eye sailing system gives people with or without an understanding of sailing an opportunity to experience every moment of a race – and understand what’s going on. Virtual Eye can show an entire racecourse, including marks, the direction a boat is travelling in, how fast a boat is going, and the distance between boats. Virtual Eye also displays timing information from starts and finishes, and can estimate how long it would take one boat to catch up with another. Even better, all of this information is available in real-time. It’s already being used in America’s Cup TV coverage, live streaming, web apps, on mobile devices, and more.

Facebook analysis

The future of media is social – or at least that’s what the vast majority of businesses seem to believe. Vodafone apparently believes this too, and so is providing special behind the scenes coverage with Kiwi yachting commentators Martin Tasker and Peter Lester immediately after each race exclusively on Facebook. All one has to do is hop on over to Vodafone’s Facebook page to check it out.