The Best Racing on TV!

Something that I find positive in these troubling times is the Volvo Ocean Race Round the World, currently in the middle of leg 5.  Not just the race itself, but the way that the race is being publicized by volvooceanracetv dot com.  The media outlet of the multimillion dollar sailboat race, it has developed from a rough and ready “Are you there, Andy?  We can’t hear you.” type of programming to slick, finished productions, utilizing video taken on the boats, expert editing on shore, and a variety of programs available to watch.

One big change for this edition of the sailboat race round the world is the addition of a media specialist to the crews of the boats.  Even though the boats in the last race had hand held cameras as well as mounted cams, the coverage was spotty, because the crews were too busy racing to sit down and edit video for a couple of hours during their sleep time.  This was a sad thing, because the quality of the cameras was excellent, and the visuals of the open ocean were stunning.

In response, the Volvo Ocean Race organization required that teams each have a member of the crew who was prohibited from handling any sailing duties, be it helping move the huge sail bags to standing watches at the helm.  Their only duty was to record the race from the perspective of the people on the boats.  Because this did not require their complete attention, it was soon realized that the media crewmen were an asset, because they had the time to effect repairs that were time consuming, so that the sailing crew could get some rest when they were not on watch.

Production facilities capable of editing down hundreds of hours of video into a half hour or shorter program every week were also made part of the effort, so that the weekly shows and specials were professional looking, with quality editing and soundtracks.  In the last race, the 2005-2006 series, only one weekly program and a monthly program were produced, and they often had a somewhat amateur feeling to them, kind of like watching home movies.  When it became obvious that the boat crews could not provide enough video to sustain a weekly program, crews were hired to film crew member’s families, and event management going about their duties.

Having enough video to work with is not a problem this time around, at least since the end of leg one.  During leg one, the Puma crew seemed to be the only ones able to produce any  substantial footage for the programs.  Since the Cape Town in-port race though, there has been a much better balance between the various boats.  And each one of them has experienced a lot of drama and excitement, which has made producing gripping episodes much easier.

Even though the carbon footprint of the race is still large, the result of several teams flying containers and shore crews from port to port, the overall impact is probably much smaller than the NASCAR or Formula 1 series, because the competitors are using the wind for their power.  And the wind sometimes has too much power, resulting in rigging being broken, sails ripping, and boats being fractured.  To me, it is refreshing and uplifting to see people competing with each other and Nature without having to burn thousands of liters of petrol, and using up hundreds of tires, but still racing extremely high tech machines.


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