Since Sir Keith Mills’ company Open Sport Management acquired the commercial rights to the IMOCA class, a key objective has been to improve communication of the dramatic stories that unfold on the high seas, back to the media ashore.
As Sir Keith puts it: “You hear the stories from the skippers once they are back on the dock and they’re truly amazing. If packaged and told in the right way, they could attract a very wide audience.”
To rectify this, the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race will be the first ever major IMOCA event where the doublehanded crews competing also have the opportunity to take a media crewmen with them.
Dedicated on board reporters/media crewmen have featured aboard boats in the last two Volvo Ocean Races. In this they proved to be a vital, dedicated interface between the media and fans back on land and the sailing crew.
One person with a foot in both camps is Andrés Soriano, who sailed the last Volvo Ocean Race as media crewman on Mike Sanderson’s Team Sanya. Andrés will be joining Guillermo Altadill and José Muñoz aboard Neutrogena for the race to Barcelona.
For Soriano, a lifelong sailor, the job on Team Sanya was a “dream come true” as he’d recently acquired a ‘media and communications’ degree with photography as a speciality subject. “Since I was a little kid, the Volvo Ocean Race was ‘my Mount Everest’,” he recalls. “It was the most amazing opportunity not only to do something I had wanted to do for so long, but to contribute, bringing more people and more sponsors to the sport of sailing, which I love.”
Being a media crewman on board a boat that is being raced hard across oceans is not as glamorous as it sounds. During the Volvo Ocean Race media crewmen are forbidden to help with the sailing of the boat in any way, but, in addition to their journalistic responsibilities, could cook for the crew and clean the boat. Lucky them. For the shorter IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race, there are no such draconian rules. Media crewman are, as defined in the Notice of Race as ‘not permitted to participate in the sailing of the Boat in any way ’. This is to give the sailing crew some flexibility in what they feel comfortable with allowing their media crewman to do.
And there will be occasions when the hands of the media crewman are required. Less than 24 hours into the last Volvo Ocean Race, Team Sanya came perilously close to sinking when she was holed off the Spanish coast. As Soriano recounts: “I remember having a camera in my hand and a GoPro on my head while I was holding the bilge pump in place as we fire hosed water out of the boat. And I was interviewing someone at the same time!”
While part of the time is spent hanging off precarious positions on deck to get ‘the shot’, in practice hours on end are spent down below focussed on a computer screen, editing photos and video and then ensuring that is transmitted successfully back to land via the yacht’s sophisticated satellite communications equipment. This is straightforward on land, but is far from so on a powerful racing yacht, charging across the ocean at breakneck speeds, repeatedly crashing through waves. It is a job that requires a stomach of iron.
“Knock on wood….I haven’t gotten seasick yet and I didn’t on the Volvo,” continues Soriano. “But I grew up on boats, which helps a lot. You have to know your body: There are ways to tell when you are not feeling so good. If it’s a bad night or a rough day, then you need to go out on deck for some air. It is about not letting yourself reach the point of getting sick, because then you become a concern for the other crew.”
And that, he advises, is the hardest part of the job. “Being the one crewman, who isn’t allowed to assist in helping out, is pretty difficult if you are a sailor. One of my priorities during the Volvo was to try and do everything in my power to make the boys never feel like I was a passenger on board.”
But experience on board is also vital: “You have to be comfortable on a boat first because before you can even think about even pulling your camera out, you have to know enough to ensure you are standing in the right place, hooking on to the right thing, so that safety isn’t really your primary concern. Only then can you focus on getting the right shot.” Another person with the right credentials is Enrique Cameselle, media crewman on GAES with Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin. This will be Cameselle’s first time in this role but he comes with a strong background as a sailor and knows boats inside out. He is also well acquainted with IMOCA 60s having been shore crew for Renault ZE, Pachi Rivero and Antonio Piris’ entry in the last Barcelona World Race.
“The job of media crewman is new for me, but it’s an opportunity that attracts me,” says Cameselle. “I’ve always been interested in photography and video, so I am confident I can do a good job.”
“The sending of material from the boat is more difficult, because you are reliant on external factors that you cannot control yourself. And editing doesn’t bother me, as I have already been working with different software. During the days prior to departure, I will do last tests and verifications to make sure it is all working properly.”