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Inside the America’s Cup: The Go-Fast Boat Connection

When the America’s Cup sailing competition resumes again this afternoon on San Francisco Bay, one well-known person from the powerboat community will be watching a lot closer than most. Photographer Robert Brown, whose photo credits include Powerboat magazine, Boating magazine, Speedonthewater.com and Boats.com, will be running Chase Boat II, one of two powerboats capturing live video from the races and feeding them directly to NBC televison and several other media outlets.

Robert Brown's US Camera Boat is one of two boats on San Francisco Bay capturing live footage of today's America's Cup competition.

Robert Brown’s US Camera Boat is one of two vessels on San Francisco Bay capturing live footage of today’s America’s Cup competition for NBC television.

Brown is piloting US Camera Boat, his 36-foot-long Twin Vee catamaran powered by two 300-hp Mercury Verado engines. Brown has used the boat for a number of go-fast powerboat shoots, as well for big-wave surfing photo assignments. (Most recently, he shot the 2013 Mavericks Big Wave Contest in Half Moon Bay, Calif., about 25 miles from the America’s Cup site where his boat is docked.) But for America’s Cup coverage, he’s a driver not a shooter as he was for the Louis Vuitton Cup, which qualified teams for the event, earlier this summer.

“It’s incredible, high-intensity work for about two hours at a time—you couldn’t take pictures and drive the boat at the same time if you wanted to,” Brown said this morning as he prepped the boat for today’s action. “The biggest thing is not beating the cameras into oblivion and killing their shot, because the bay is pretty rough. The Twin Cat with the Verado is perfect for these conditions.

Photographer Robert Brown is a driver, not a shooter, for the event—and that's more than enough to keep him busy.Photographer Robert Brown is a driver, not a shooter, for the event—and that’s more than enough to keep him busy.

“These guys are doing 54 mph in a sailboat—they’re completely on the edge,” he added. “I see it as the sailing equivalent of doing 200 mph in a turbine boat.”

With that kind of top-speed capability, the teams fielding the 72-foot-long catamarans in the event need their own chase/support boats that can keep up—or at least come close. To that end, Oracle Team USA brought in Mike Fiore, the founder and owner of Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats, earlier this summer to help resolve performance issues with its primary chase/support vessel, a 42-foot Naiad RIB with twin 480-hp Cummins diesels. Earlier this year, Fiore assisted the team in repowering the boat with like-powered Yanmar diesels and new set-up.

“The technology, the number of people they have working and the budgets they have are just incredible,” said Fiore, who made several trips to Team Oracle USA headquarters in San Francisco before the America’s Cup competition began, during a telephone interview this morning. “I saw them building the first two boats, as well as fixing one of the boats after it crashed.

Mike Fiore of Outerlimits worked as consultant for Team Oracle USA on its RIB chase/support boat.Mike Fiore of Outerlimits worked as a consultant for Team Oracle USA on its RIB chase/support boat.

“I got to know a lot of the guys—they’re my friends,” he added “What nice for Outerlimits is that we have technological relationship with them. They offer a lot, and they can advise us in a lot of areas.”

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