The Swedish Match Cup

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In mid-June, the Island of Marstrand on the Swedish West Coast becomes the

focal point for sailing enthusiasts. For a week, the Swedish Match Cup

dominates the waters around the island. The sailing form is match racing where

two boats in each heat sail against each other for about 30 minutes on a

relatively small course defined by three placed buoys — checkpoints. This

event has returned annually for ten years and includes 80 heats, which attracts

around 150,000 fans. The positions of the buoys are only altered when there

are severe changes in the weather. The Cup is unique in the way that the

spectators can follow the race from the shore, from boats or from any of the

small islands surrounding the course. In a way, the setting is shaped as an arena

(see Figure 3). The media content providers were volunteers working for the

organizer of the Swedish Match Cup. Race officials are located in a tower at

the shore and got constant updates and information from the race control, on

the top of the tower. Information concerning the event was published on the

Internet site and in local newspapers. Live video from the match cup was also

broadcasted via the Internet.

Supplement to the Event

The Swedish Match Cup attracts a varied audience. People attend the event to

enjoy the weather, the races and to socialize with friends sharing the interest of

sailing. Between the stages, people spend time in restaurants and other facilities

offering spectator services. It is a social event, which attracts the upper class

of people. The main purpose is to take part of the live event. Certain event

information facilitates a fundamental understanding of the different heats taking

place, such as rules of the competition, overall standings and ranking lists.

However, event information is somewhat of a secondary matter for the

spectators. The live event and the social value of it come in first-hand. Similar

to the study of the Roskilde Festival, event information serves mainly as an addon

value. The information gives the spectators knowledge about what is going

to take place in the competition.

Spectator Mobility

In their search for a good spot, the spectators at the Swedish Match Cup have

a few alternatives available. The race is held close to the shore and enables the

Figure 3. Sketch over spectators located on the base cliff at the site of the

Swedish Match Cup, the race checkpoints and surrounding spectator


spectators to find different places, such as the base cliff, to locate themselves

prior to the race starts. Several placed lighters at the shore of the base cliff are

also popular spots. The terrain is very open and enables the spectators to see

competitors approach at a distance, arrive and pass them by from the shore or

the provided lighters. Some spectators are more mobile during the race, and

watch the heats from small boats in the vicinity of the competition course. The

spectators equipped with boats vary their position for a more exciting view of

the Cup (Figure 3). Spectators without boats do not have the same opportunity

of altering their position. The majority of the spectators were located at the cliffs

in the vicinity of the race and the provided lighters placed at the shore.

Spectators situated at the shore and on lighters are locally mobile between the

spots from where they are spectating, restaurants and other facilities. People

frequently move within these areas depending on the highlights of the event.

Situated Content

Unlike the two earlier studies, the spectators at this event are not forced to

make priorities regarding information updates and their geographical position,

since a loudspeaker system is strategically placed throughout the area, covering

almost the whole course surroundings. The spectators can make use of the local

broadcast and at the same time get a clear overview of the action taking place,

due to the open field of vision. Sound travels easily over water, which increased

the coverage of the area supported by the speaker broadcasts. Large screens

were also placed in the area at pre-defined places to display various updates.

The locations of the screens were decided by estimating where larger parts of

the audience would be situated. To get the essentials of the event experience,

an understanding of the competition rules is needed. This information is,

however, not communicated by the local broadcast or in other public forms

available. Some spectators prepared themselves prior to the event by looking

up competition rules on the official website of the Cup. For most people, it is

difficult to determine which of the races that was really of high interest and

importance. In a way, the Swedish Match Cup resembles the Rally study. The

spectators’ focus of visual attention hovers between the race and social

interaction with other spectators. When spectators leave for lunch for instance,

they have no contact with how the race evolves or when the next race is up.

Many spectators claimed to be alerted mostly by the speaker broadcasts. The

speaker announces something, which alerts the spectators that something is

about to happen. As a result of this situation, they leave the restaurant area and

head towards the shore again, resuming their attention to the race, as the

following excerpt describes.

Warrick at the base cliff: There are highlights of the race that just

turns up. The chance of knowing when things are going to happen

is really small. Sometimes you actively watch from the shore, and

at times more passively, like, you do other things with your friends

waiting for things to happen. On some occasions the crowd

cheered outside and we went out there to check out if anything

interesting was about to happen. We could also overhear the

speaker broadcast, which was another way of knowing upcoming


This example shows that the somewhat long intervals between highlights of the

event lead to spectators engaging in other activities alongside the race. It also

suggests a deficient awareness among the spectators when interesting events

are going to take place. As a result, spectators run the risk of missing important

parts of the race while being located away from the course of events. To

facilitate a limited awareness, spectators rely on alerts made by the speaker or

signs of activity from other spectators. In order for the speaker broadcast to

provide sufficient support, it is required that the spectators to some extent are

situated within earshot. At times, the spectators located away from the race can

get an idea of potential upcoming activity through passively listening to the

broadcast, although without catching what it is about.


This section discusses the contextual requirements. Further, the main challenges

for design are described. Moreover, we discuss the use of theory, i.e.,

the background perspectives concerning the notions of context that previously

have mostly been used in work related settings. The section ends with an outline

of implications for the design of IT support of spectators at distributed events.