Information Design: America’s Cup

Oracle Team USA recently completed a historic comeback in the America’s Cup, which is evidently the oldest international trophy in all of sport. For those of you who know even less than me, Oracle was down 8-1 to Emirates New Zealand, who only needed one more win to take the cup. Over the course of several days Oracle came back to tie and eventually win in 19 races. The final race can be seen below.

I have no clue about what happens in sailing, and I’m not going to watch all 19 40-minute races. But I do appreciate a good sports story, so I decided to check it out and see what it’s all about. It’s impressive to see the maneuvers that these enormous boats are able to pull off. However, I was even more impressed with how easy they made it for me to be able to jump in and at least have some idea of what was going on in the race. At about 8 minutes in you can see a great rundown of the course and understand what to expect when you’re watching. Throughout the race the overlay of information is really great, showing the boundaries of the course, some distance markers, and also showing the speed of each boat. I still don’t understand sailing, but it’s inspiring to see so much effort put into making it easy for outsiders to pick it up. It makes me think about what architects might do to make their drawings and language more accessible. But that’s an ongoing effort. For right now, congratulations to all the improbable sports stories, including Oracle Team USA and Pittsburgh’s own Pirates.


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