Publish date:

The Surfer

It's as true in sailing as it is in public relations: no gust,
no glory. Hence, if a spinnaker falls on New Zealand's Hauraki
Gulf during the Louis Vuitton Cup and nobody gets wind of it,
has it really happened?

In terms of print and TV coverage in the U.S., a near dead calm
has surrounded the Vuitton Cup--the 11-yacht challenger series
that will select a boat to race in February's America's Cup
against defending champion Team New Zealand--since it began on
Oct. 18. However, with the last of the Vuitton Cup's three round
robins beginning this week, cybersailors can tack between two
see-worthy sites.

--www.americascup.org
The official site of the America's Cup, produced by Quokka
Sports, should appeal to landlubbers and old salts alike. For
novices, a 223-item glossary provides a working knowledge of
yachting's lexicon, with photos or diagrams included where
pertinent. Click on "Cup History" and learn about the 31
previous quests for the Auld Mug, dating back to 1851.

Two of the more popular destinations, each under the "Race
Coverage" section, are "Features" and "RaceViewer." The former
provides daily Vuitton Cup highlights, in words, photos and
audio reports, such as those of mastman Simone de Mari of
Italy's Prada falling overboard in the first race of the first
round robin (despite the mishap, Prada is the series' leader)
and Toshiki Shibata of Japan's Asura getting hit in the face by
a wayward spinnaker pole, fracturing his jaw and nose. "The
RaceViewer," says Bill Hahn, who races J-24s out of Darien,
Conn., "captures each of the races in live time, providing
minute-by-minute commentary and mark-rounding, so you know how a
boat is faring on each leg."

--www.louisvuittoncup.com
Like americascup.org, this site provides enough maritime
information to get Captain Stubing to Puerta Vallarta and back.
Each race is previewed and reviewed, and links are available to
the home pages of all 11 syndicates. Of the two sites,
americascup.org has the simpler home page, and novices will find
it easier to track the event's developments there. The Vuitton
site, on the other hand, is richer visually, with more extensive
photo galleries, a sophisticated "Virtual Spectator" and a
"Media Hub" that provides an archive with videos (through a link
to fastv.com) of all the races and press conferences. While its
home page looks busy and chaotic, not unlike New York Harbor on
the Fourth of July, experienced yachtsmen may find the detail
offered by louisvuittoncup.com more compelling than that of
americascup.org.

COLOR PHOTO: NIGEL MARPLE/REUTERS

A ROM TRIPPER
Bubble gum, shmubble gum: Fans will flip for interactive sports
trading cards

If you think it heresy that many kids would rather collect
Pokemon cards than baseball cards, the Upper Deck Company
agrees. But how can Upper Deck lure young fans back to the genre?

Digitize. Upper Deck recently introduced its PowerDeck series,
trading cards of 25 big leaguers in the form of miniature
CD-ROMs (roughly the size of traditional cards) that include
game-action video, music, a photo gallery, stats (alas, only
through the 1998 season) and a brief biography. Remember when
your Tito Fuentes card only made a sound if you placed it
between the spokes of your bicycle? Now you can download a Mark
McGwire card that shows footage of Big Mac cracking his
record-breaking 62nd home run in 1998, accompanied by Joe Buck's
call.

PowerDeck cards also are available for the NBA and NFL. The
baseball series is sold in three-card packs (two traditional
baseball cards, one CD-ROM) retailing for $4.99. A digitized
card will occupy as much as 10 minutes of viewing and reading
time. Some of the background music sounds suspiciously similar
to U2's I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, which, after
all, is the anthem of every card collector.

The best bargain is PowerDeck's four-CD-ROM Athletes of the
Century collection ($19.99), which features Wayne Gretzky,
Michael Jordan, Joe Montana and Babe Ruth. Our only quibble is
that none of Jordan or Montana's college highlights are
included, but the rare photographs of the Sultan of Swat are a
grand slam.

--J.W.

Winner

ABC
The cost of 30-second spots for Super Bowl XXXIV on Jan. 30
reaches approximately $2 million, a record and nearly 25% above
the previous high, set last year.

Loser

WWF
Coca-Cola, citing concerns about program content, smacks down
the World Wrestling Federation by pulling its ads from WWF
telecasts.