Custom database software spurs America’s Cup win

Posted by Justin Hesser on December 23, 2013

Choppy waters don't exactly have much in common with an office environment. One thing they do share, however, is that the principles behind Big Data can apply equally well to both. In fact, it was those ideas that propelled Larry Ellison to an incredible win in the America's Cup.

In a sense, it's not surprising that Ellison should have sought to marry analytics and sailing. His company, Oracle, is one of the biggest technology companies in the entire world. It was this savvy that he was able to apply to the design and tactics of his chosen boat for one of the most prestigious races in the world.

Oracle's victory was one for the use of analytics and custom database software. Both of its boats had hundreds of sensors, which recorded thousands of variables. Some of the data points were so discrete that they were measured six hundred times per minute. The sailors themselves were given electronic tablets to use, as well as wrist displays and wireless capabilities. All of this information allowed designers to better understand how the boat could handle different conditions, as well as how close it was to operating at peak efficiency at all times.

All of this data-gathering yielded some valuable insights. Instead of the longer 80-foot trimarans, the team deduced that 72 feet was the largest boat they could easily control. By deciding on a catamaran, they were able to achieve high speeds without sacrificing the necessary portability — boats must be capable of being transported in shipping containers and reassembled within two days. 

There's a valuable takeaway here, even for those not inclined towards the seas: the more information you can process and analyze, the more of an advantage you'll have.