AmericanBoater
Technical Sports Star, Circumnavigator & Submarine Guy

 

Stan Honey - Game Changer

Published: October/November 2012

The America's Cup director of technology may be about to change sailing forever with the next big idea in TV graphics.

Photo of Stan Honey
Photo: ACEA/Giles Martin-Raget

You can take your pick of accomplishments when describing Stan Honey. He led the group that developed the yellow first-down line on televised football; co-founded Sportvision in 1998, a company that sells those live-tracking enhancements to TV; started SailMail Association, which provides onboard email to cruising sailors virtually anywhere on the oceans over single-side band and ham radios; took first place as navigator in the Volvo Ocean race and 11 Transpacs, with a single-handed first-place in the latter; and won three personal Emmys for technical innovation. His most recent job, as director of technology for the America's Cup, might prove to be his biggest game changer to date. Honey aims to make sailing something it has never been: a full-blown TV event.

The boy from Southern California, who's been sailing 8-foot "guppy" dinghies since he was 7, has developed a system to track the America's Cup boats to within 2cm (or 0.787402-inch), 5 times per second. The program then quickly superimposes graphics, such as ahead-behind lines, on the live helicopter footage of the race to help viewers follow the action of the AC45s and AC72s as they soar around the racecourse.

Stan Honey's football graphics are now making waves in sailing
Stan Honey's football graphics are now making waves in sailing.

"It's still expensive to do," he says of the technology. "But I think it'll get cheaper with time, and become increasingly common.The objective is to make sailing on TV more accessible to folks who aren't yet sailing fans." It's special for Honey in another way, too. Despite his many work accomplishments, this is the first gig where he gets to combine his parallel careers as a professional navigator and electrical engineer.

After completing an engineering and science degree at Yale, where he was on the sailing team, and an M.S. in electrical engineering at Stanford, he was invited to navigate by several prominent sailors, including Roy Disney, Steve Fossett, Nolan Bushnell, and eventually Larry Ellison, aboard his 80-foot maxi, Sayonara.

Photo of Stan Honey with his Emmy Award
Photo: ACEA/Giles Martin-Raget

"Of course, Ellison's a technical guy. We spoke about augmented reality, the technology I was working on that superimposed graphics in sports and the highlighted hockey puck, and about how it would be possible to do the same kinds of special effects for sailing," says Honey. "Apparently Larry recalled that when he decided he wanted to use augmented reality for the America's Cup."

Things continue to be hectic in the Honey household heading into the America's Cup finals in San Francisco next year. Stan and his wife, Sally Lindsay Honey (twice named Rolex U.S. Yachtswoman of the Year), are finding less and less time to indulge their own sailing passions. "Yes, we both seem to be pretty busy right now," he says. "But we do still try to take our vintage Cal 40 out when we can, and occasionally we'll do a major project on it."

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