Stan Honey on Personalities and America’s Cup TV.

The America’s Cup is pumping out so much news at the moment, that it’s hard to keep track – even for people who follow this stuff on a daily basis. Press conferences are happening with less than 24 hours notice and announcements about personnel are being tacked onto the bottom of emails as throwaway lines.

Amongst this week’s news is the announcement that Stan Honey, Rolex Yachtsman of the Year 2010, has been appointed to Director of Technology for the 34th America’s Cup by the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA). It’s not a big surprise. Larry Ellison hinted that Honey would be the guy to come up with the smarts to bring sailing to a new TV audience based on his experience with NFL, NASCAR and other sports.

Drawing yellow lines on TV broadcasts is one way that the ECEA will convince television executives that the 34th America’s Cup deserves space on networks with big audiences. But the technology won’t be enough to make the coverage interesting. In a long interview (40 minutes) with Sailing Anarchy, Honey talked about how personality is an imperative for the cup and how multiple cameras and on-board sound will help tell stories that animation alone can’t.

Honey says that the early America’s Cup World Series regattas, fans will see the same thing as ‘Virtual Eye’, but the difference will be that laylines will be rendered into the live helicopter view instead of an animated background. Honey says that there is a need for the information from the live shots and the data provided by Virtual eye together so that fans can see the reason why one boat might be making big gains.

Personalities are important. Honey is ‘just the tool-builder’ – it will be up to Gary Lovejoy and Denis Harvey, the guys who are the storytellers on the TV side to make it compelling. According to Stan Honey, “Gary absolutely gets that it is about the personalities.”

However, sailors haven’t been required to be media stars. There is nothing to suggest that they are comfortable with their personal branding in a way that makes them want to be recognised. Honey says this is partly to do with organisers pershaps taking an approach that is too managed and controlled:

“We are kind of our own worst enemy in this sport. A Volvo team will go through interview training. They train the sailors to – ‘thank the skipper, thank the crew, compliment the competitors, thank the sponsor and then shut up.’ So the interviews get boring and no-one wants to watch them. We don’t develop personalities.”

“The way to do it is to be authentic, because the viewers can tell. Fans are incredibly sensitive to people who aren’t actors trying to act. It doesn’t work.”

It seems there is a big opportunity for a sailor to win for themselves and their sponsor by trading on charisma as well as sailing talent.

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