Sun, Surf and Software

Long before the starting gun, the megabuck quest for the America's Cup begins on drawing boards, on computer screens and in experimental water tanks

THE SCENE LOOKS AS TIMELESS as one from the Odyssey: billowing sails, hulls slicing through salt spray, sunburned crewmen pulling at ropes and squinting into wind. But if the image is classic, the men competing in the America's Cup final this week know victory will owe more to expensive high-tech wizardry than to the art of ancient mariners. "National technology is at the heart of the competition," says John Marshall, boatbuilder and head of the Partnership for America's Cup Technology. "It's been a technology contest since 1851." That year a newly designed schooner called America launched the quadrennial challenge by trouncing...

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