Volvo Ocean Race opens itself to viewers worldwide

Race organisers say constant communication brings safety, strategic and tactical benefits

Craig Satterthwaite of New Zealand hangs over the side of Azzam to tighten up bolts in the damaged hull area, whilst being filmed by a GoPro camera on a pole, during Leg 5 of the 2011/12 Volvo Ocean Race, from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil, on April 2, 2012. Nick Dana / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
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Viewers may not be able to vote any crew members off the boat, but this year's Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) will be as close to a 24-hour reality show as possible. VOR Season 12: Reality at Sea, perhaps?

One of the primary aims for race organisers this year has been to make the competition as accessible to followers as possible, and to communicate what they consider to be its uniquely stirring human stories.

All boats will have wireless connectivity and crews equipped with tablets and other tools, in theory providing a constant stream of updates. Biometric data of the crew will be captured, as well as data such as heart rates.

All boats will be equipped with Formula One-style cameras that will stream the entire race back to the race control centre in Alicante, Spain. All of it will be available to broadcast and view, live.

Every boat will be transmitting and receiving information from the control centre 24 hours a day, which, primarily, is a boon for safety.

“First priority, of course, will be safety,” said Knut Frostad, the race chief executive. “Any emergency which arises should be known immediately and the appropriate action taken. We will be aware of the exact position of every boat each 15 seconds.”

The unbroken communication will also have tactical and strategic benefits. All boats will be able to receive critical information about upcoming weather patterns, about wind speeds and directions, temperatures and even details about waves.

But along with a non-sailing media crew member, whose job it is to document and transmit the story of each boat, it means viewers will know more about each journey than ever before.

“We will be putting out information almost constantly in seven languages,” Frostad said. “Raw film material will be available to television stations around the world.

“As well as the fixed video cameras at strategic points aboard the yachts, there will be a media crew member, who will not be involved in helping the race crew, dedicated to reporting everything that happens aboard.

“He will also be filming as well as keeping a log and ready to report to any television company or other media that requests such material. We will even be able to arrange live interviews to coincide with news bulletins.

“In fact, what we are doing is creating a reality show. But this will be a real reality show, while all the others are scripted.”

This year’s race has five entrants confirmed, including Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam. Two more boats are expected to join before the race begins in October, with the first leg from Alicante to Cape Town.

That is the first of nine legs, and various in-port races, that take in 11 cities and covers nearly 39,000 nautical miles.

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