Boating on the Internet

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The Independent Online

The boats in the Europe 1 Newman Single-Handed Trans-Atlantic race set off from Plymouth to Newport, Rhode Island - a distance of 2,810 miles - on 4 June.

The boats in the Europe 1 Newman Single-Handed Trans-Atlantic race set off from Plymouth to Newport, Rhode Island - a distance of 2,810 miles - on 4 June.

The record for the 60ft multihull class is 10 days, nine hours and 15 seconds, which means that, if you log on now to follow their progress at the site, you might virtually witness a record being broken.

You will need to register at Virtual Spectator and download the appropriate software (Windows 95 or better with a minimum Pentium II 266Mhz chip and ideally a 16Mb 3D TNT-compatible graphic card). Once set up it allows live coverage of the multihulls and the 60ft monohulls (which are aiming at a record of 14 days six hours) in interactive 3D animation.

Switching between various views of the race allows race tactics and progress to be tracked. Weather details, wind direction and race commentary are all accessible - even e-mails from the boats. Although the technology may be heavy-duty, in use it is easier than most computer games. Similar technology was used in the America's Cup, attracting more than 300,000 users. Race news and progress in standard web format is also available.

Virtual Spectator works well over standard dial-up connections to the internet. Broadband opens up even more possibilities - a shame that BT and cable company plans mean that much of the UK will not be in with a chance of getting a taste in the foreseeable future.

One site that is up and running is a partnership between major league baseball in the United States and Seasonticket.com where, thanks to internet rights being successfully negotiated, on-demand video highlights are on offer. The site can be personalised by filling in a user profile so that you get to see clips and highlights of games involving your favourite teams.

If you have the facility to combine two lines on an ISDN connection in the UK you will just be able to get enough bandwidth to see decent-quality video, but ideally you will need an ADSL line or cable modem. Those stuck with a standard phone line will only receive static pictures instead of 30 to 40 second video clips available within two hours of a game finishing.

Online balloting is also available to add value for fans and get them involved with their sport via the internet. It seems to be working. According to the San Francisco Giants, half of their season tickets this year have been sold over the net. Flash 4 is required to access the site.

andy.oldfield@virgin.net

Site Addresses

Europe 1 Newman Transatlantic Solo Race www.europe1newmanstar.com/uk

Virtual Spectator www.virtualspectator.com

Seasonticket.com www.seasonticket.com

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