The America’s Cup Meteorological Data Service (MDS) will be available to all 12 competitors in the Cup, following breakthrough mediation by the Jury resulting in a change to the Protocol for the 32nd America’s Cup. The Protocol amendment involves the costing and payment by the event organisers for the service and specifically bans teams from combining the information provided with GPS, radar or lidar systems to assess another competitor’s performance.
The MDS was an initiative created in the Protocol for the 32nd America’s Cup by the Defender (the Société Nautique de Genève) and the Challenger of Record (the Golden Gate Yacht Club). It will be an overall cost saving measure for the teams by avoiding duplication of similar data gathering programmes as we saw in the last several editions of the Cup, where several of the better-funded teams deployed up to seven weather boats each. The Protocol directed the Regatta Director to implement an MDS and work began early in 2004 on the project.
The MDS is a state of the art programme providing raw weather information (wind direction, speed, barometric pressure, humidity) through a system of 21 purpose-built buoys placed on the North and South race course areas off Valencia. 11 of the met buoys have already been deployed and up to six land-based stations will be part of the network.
As part of an agreement with Consorcio 2007, a vertical wind profiler that provides wind shear information every 50-metres up to an altitude of two-kilometres will also be available to the competitors. Through a close partnership with Puertos del Estado, two additional buoys will be added to the network to provide wave and current information for the race course area.
MDS – a great equaliser
The MDS programme is a great equaliser in the sense that all 12 teams will be given the same raw material from which to base their weather forecasting, their yacht design work, and also to decide the crucial first windward leg tactics.
Teams can still gain a competitive advantage through their forecasting models and ability and the way they utilise and interpret the raw data. The MDS team has also developed a software package that displays all the data collected and allows the teams to do a visual analysis of the wind field on and around the race course.
“The MDS as it is set-up will provide an unprecedented amount of information, at a very high degree of accuracy, as well as some tools to analyse that information,” said Glyn Davies, manager of the MDS for the America’s Cup organisers. “We have spent a lot of time researching, designing and building weather buoys that are state-of-the-art, designed just for this purpose. The teams are excited by the programme, especially some of the smaller teams, who would otherwise be unable to gather and use this much information.”
Prior to the new Protocol agreement, eight of 12 teams had already subscribed (with one more team indicating a firm intention to do so) to the programme on a cost recovery basis. As before, the new arrangement for the MDS is non-compulsory, but full subscription is expected with 10 teams having signed on as of the end of the Valencia Louis Vuitton Acts on June 26th 2005. Teams will have access to all of the data gathered to date (information was collected beginning in May 2004) regardless of when they sign up to the programme.
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