"Whatever they've done has made the difference. It's given them those extra couple of knots they were lacking the previous six or seven races," he says. The America's Cup has always pushed the limits of technology, even from the first yachts . Back at San Francisco's Pier 30, spectator Ricardo Romani says the end result of all of this is a leaner race, and he's a little nostalgic. Romani likes the new boats but misses the old teamwork. "We went from a gentleman's sport, good sailing, decent skippers, sometimes overweight — it didn't matter — to very high tech," he says. "I think this is going to [be the] start of a new era for sailing."

Then they review the data for possible improvements. "You collect the data, you get a kind of report, and then you go into a sailing team meeting, a design meeting, and you discuss which is the best way to move forward," he says.

In 2013, they don't even have sails — they have oversized rigid wings and carbon fiber patch cord hulls that let them leap up out of the water to hydroplane on the surface. Gilberto Nobili of Italy is the grinder for Oracle Team USA. His job is to move the ski-shaped foils on the bottom of the boat that make it fly. Nobili huddles with a team of mathematicians and designers minutes before the race. When he's on the water, they record 3,000 variables, 10 times a second.

He's not allowed to reveal exactly what the Americans changed, but he calls the process amazing. "We start the race one week ago, and the boat was different." New Sailing Language On the other side of this new computer-nerd/superathlete partnership is Nick Holroyd, the technical director for Emirates Team New Zealand.

"Now because we pick the boat up, you're really looking at a three-dimensional physics problem," he says. "So just the number of cases that we need to run to understand how a hull's going to behave has gone up exponentially."

During each race, Holroyd gets on a chase boat to monitor his team in real time. He says to move faster than the wind, the boats don't just glide on the water's surface. A few tournaments ago, the Kiwis had about 30 sailors and 15 engineers. Now it's the other way around. "We've had to kind of sit down with the sailing team and almost invent a new language," Holroyd says.