Sport on the Internet

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FOR CAPTURING the action in the Louis Vuitton Cup, the America's Cup Challenger Series, the third round of which finishes today in Auckland, New Zealand, the Quokka RaceViewer on the America's Cup official site is proving an excellent tool. By the time the Cup proper starts on 18 February, it will prove invaluable.

Using later versions of Internet Explorer or Netscape Communicator, you can run the race viewer in your browser. Match details take only a couple of minutes to download on the worst of dial-up connections and much less on anything like a decent one.

The coverage provided is comprehensive. A single page with a scrolling text window in the centre of a pop-up frame gives a complete text race commentary. A scrolling box of photos, labelled by time, sits above it. A box of stats with three clickable categories (leaderboard details, wind- boat speed details, and race highlights) is at the bottom, along with a course diagram showing wind speed and direction. A RealAudio link completes the picture. As an interactive race report it's enough to make print journalists feel uneasy about their future prospects.

There are good news and results resources on site. For getting up to speed on the basics of the sport, the site has Flash movies explaining the jobs done by crew members in different positions. RealPlayer and QuickTime audio and video clips supplement the extensive still-photo galleries. There are also online games, ranging from a Louis Vuitton fantasy game, through boat design and racing simulations to a real-time Virtual Skipper game where you sail in cyberspace over the Net against other sailors.

Although an information-rich site, it's also a good looking one. The Louis Vuitton Cup site has a different feel, but still manages to marry design and content in ways that put many sites to shame.

On the America's Cup racing simulation front, it offers the 3D real-time Virtual Cup. But if instead you want chapter and verse on the real-life rules for racing, they're all here. Admittedly, the original deed of gift, dating back to the last century and reproduced on site, is a masterpiece of incomprehensible legalese, but the contemporary material such as breakdowns of the competition structure is clearly explained.

The media hub is building up a good stock of audio clips, graphic images and, especially, videos. They're well laid out on the page in thumbnail format, which makes browsing easy. Quality-wise, the images are only average in terms of what streaming technology allows (they do stream at a good rate though). Boring old analogue television coverage is vastly superior, when you can get it, but the RealPlayer clip of race seven between Young America and America One, for instance, does add atmosphere to the written reports provided.

When a video clip is viewed, related links and media clips are displayed in a separate menu which is useful for charting a thematic course through the information on site.

Site Addresses

America's Cup 2000 Official Site

Louis Vuitton Cup