It was nice to hear this morning that someone actually has won the America’s cup, and there is now the prospect of getting back to some proper racing again instead of slugging it out in a courtroom. In the end it was superior technology, rather than a superior legal team, that won the day for Oracle. (Though the two may not be entirely unconnected.) Oracle simply had the fastest boat – and no amount of skill by Alinghi could overcome that advantage.
It’s another example of how sport is more and more dominated by science and technology. Gone are the days where the winning was down to superior strength or skill, now it is down to having the best equipment, whether it is the rugby jersey that an opponent can’t grab hold of, a slippery swimsuit, or a correctly tensioned tennis racket. OK – I exaggerate – you can’t expect me to beat Roger Federer simply by giving me a good racket to play with – but give Federer a 1950’s racket and I bet most of the other top players would knock him off his pedestal relatively easily. (There’s an intruiging thought – someone could sabotage his rackets – might be the only chance anyone has of beating him in the near future….)
Of course, the best equipment costs money (especially in sailing, where the cost of the boat can on occasion exceed the cost of your lawyers) which is just one of the reasons why sport is such big business.
Sometimes sports rules have to change (or be interpreted on the hoof) to cope with changing technology. (Anyone remember Dennis Lillee’s aluminium cricket bat?) It’s not just for the players – the introduction of video replays in sports like rugby and cricket was invetiable given the mockery they made of some umpiring decisions – and the use of Hawkeye in tennis is a step forward in my opinion.
I await with interest to see what as-yet-undeveloped technology will be commonplace in next twenty or thirty years’ time.