by Brian Carlin as told to Marina Thomas
Intrepid Team Vestas Wind Onboard Reporter Brian Carlin’s role is to capture the crew’s daily life through the videos, images and the blog posts that we love so much. He shares a glimpse of his day as an embedded journalist covering the gruelling Volvo Ocean Race…
04.00 No sleep-ins for us, you must be awake, fully clothed, any personal business taken care and ready to push the house you’re sharing with eight others as fast as it can go. There’s no such thing as duvet day, sick days, mom I’m not feeling great can I stay at home type of days.
Its always GO! GO! GO! If you thought the latter, this race is not for you. There is no comfort, no excuses, no way of getting out of this one Larry! Who’s Larry?
05.30 My first task is to prep breakfast for the guys coming off watch. I am not in the watch system so I can shoot footage whenever I need. You never know when something could happen. Although as part of race rules I am not allowed to help with any of the sailing, I do prepare all of our meals, which apart from occasional bowls of muesli, are all freeze-dried.
I also have the young guys hang out by my kitchen, fishing daily for what chocolate I may have left over. It’s like feeding sea lions…no tricks though!
06.30 The guys will eat either their muesli or granola, and I’ll start sending back all the material I have collected over the previous 24 hours to Volvo Race HQ, Alicante via the yacht’s satellite connection.
I send three to four minutes of video a day, between five and ten pictures and a blog of 300-400 words to supplement those.
I want to tell the personal and human stories as well as the racing news. I want to capture the ‘hero’ moments.
And with a wind energy company as a sponsor, my job is to let the world know that as well as having a goal of winning the race, we want to win the global race to combat the energy crisis through our harnessing of the wind, which is free and readily available.
We came into the race late and were only announced as an entry in August, but we have bonded incredibly well and are really integrated. As the characters develop, I’ll get inspiration from them for my stories.
Of course it’s very dangerous and if you can deliver the enormity of what the guys are doing through the media then that’s a key battle won in illustrating the race to the world.
07.30 I have to make sure the satellite connection doesn’t fail – it takes an hour to send back the content. I might edit my blog from the day before if something has happened overnight.
The new Volvo 65s were designed with media in mind and we have five cameras onboard which I can play with and operate. It is very exciting to be working with the latest technology. And believe it or not, these new boats are more comfortable and workable than the previous yachts even if they don’t look it!
I have my own dedicated media station by the navigation station where I can operate the cameras and edit on my computer as well as charge up equipment.
08.30-09.30 I try to eat at this time. Feeding the team comes first as they need around 6,000 calories a day to perform at the level required.
I then get a brief and feedback from Volvo Race HQ and Team Vestas on the previous day’s content along with any requests for the team to speak with journalists around the world.
There is a race watch producer on hand 24 hours a day and I can email, instant message or speak to him/her on the sat phone. They act as a news editor/director and producer and I have targets to hit with my content.
09.30 I get a flavour for what the stories of the day will be by speaking with the skipper and crew. Every day is different and it depends upon where we are on the race track, and what tactical decisions need to be taken by our navigator, Wouter Verbraak.
Our skipper, Aussie Chris Nicholson is committed, highly driven and highly experienced. I learn a lot from him and he is helping me develop storylines. He understands media and its necessity.
He came second in the last Volvo Race and has completed four editions in total.
11.00 Six-hourly schedules come through from Volvo Race HQ updating all the teams on their and others’ position on the track. A team meeting will often follow the skeds.
We are a bonded team. I have been integrated into every aspect and the guys feel comfortable about having a camera in their faces.
That works in my favour because nothing is staged. I am able to get some very special moments between the crew captured on camera.
Tom Jonson is the youngest crew member and it will be the first time he has crossed an ocean so following his personal voyage is great human interest.
11.00 When we go through rough weather, it can be just about trying to survive. You are lucky to get one decent shot. When the boat is going upwind at 35 knots, it moves violently and I need all my strength to even stand up and hold the camera.
On land during stopovers, we do one hour’s weights, gym and swim training a day to make sure we have the strength to work in the extremely demanding conditions. Balance and agility are key.
I could be firehosed by enormous waves to get the perfect shot in big seas or burnt by the sun trying to capture an intense reflection. The risk of injury to the crew is high so we have a trained medic on board.
Luckily, the toilet is on a moving gimbal so that is easier than on other boats I have filmed on! However there is no toilet door or curtain to save on weight on the ocean racing yacht designed for speed.
12.00 I fill the water bottles up for the guys as much as is needed. It’s vital they stay hydrated as they sweat so much. I then start making the lunch, which could be pasta, a lamb casserole or Thai chicken curry. This involves putting three kettles of boiling water into a small esky and making sure the food is thoroughly hydrated all the way through. If it’s not, the guys could become ill.
14.00 I try to get an hour’s sleep after lunch to try and reset my buttons. I need to think about all the material I have shot so far and whether it fits what has been asked and that it tells the story. I always try to think how I can do things differently and how I can be the most creative. Skipper Chris pushes me to my limits too to get the best out of me.
16.00 I prepare energy snacks which are usually protein bars. The guys come off watch starving and it is important they refuel immediately. We go through 25kg of food every two days and only carry enough for two extra days at sea. All the food must be weighed before we are allowed to set off at the start of each leg.
18.00 I start prepping dinner. I have a big issue with freeze-dried cottage pie – I need to spend 45 minutes turning it and mixing it, which is a time drain. The food all tastes the same essentially, it is just like baby food.
The varied menu of 7 days has worn thin with locals here on Vestas Wind. We have started the conversation too early people say, but Cape Town and its steaks are soon going to be a priority. It’s strange how food can become an ever-increasing consumption of your free time. We think about it all the time, especially Tom Johnson. Not a massively fussy eater but he likes what he likes; freeze-dried is not his thing.
20.00 I collect some shots of beautiful sunsets and any wildlife… Whales are big and beautiful mammals, however you want to keep your distance. Tom and Peter were pretty happy about seeing their first whales on the trip but one gave them a little bit of a scare. Having seen four whales in succession a fifth came within 4 meters on the leeward side. It certainly gave Tom a fright. All ended well and we continued onwards to the equator.
Nicolai had his first sighting of Flying Fish; this Danish farmer had been told about this phenomenon days earlier but was convinced both his skipper and fellow crew had him stitched up. Late last night he was greeted with said phenomenon. The fully glory of a 10knt fish crossing paths with a 20knt Volvo made for a very interesting 30knt collision with his head.
These fish can vary in size, some only 5cm long, other’s a sizeable 30cm. It’s no joke if these guys hit you in the wrong place. In Salty’s previous Volvo he was victim to a rather nasty black eye having made contact with one on night watch.
21.00 – 24.00 I edit my film, pictures and write my blog and then get everything I have done copied across ready to be sent in the morning.
24.00 I am able to send personal emails to friends and family but they are limited as there is not much time to do anything but focus on the race. The guys eat, sleep and breathe it.
I miss that personal interaction – and logging onto Facebook – but I want to win the media award and so I have to be totally focused on the job.
01.00 – 05.30 Finally I can climb into my bunk and get some rest. The lack of sleep is very hard, as well as the conditions which will make it impossible to sleep at times.
Follow Brian’s adventures: briancarlinphotography.com
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Marina is press officer for the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and enjoys living out of a suitcase while traveling as much as possible. She also works as a freelance journalist and is a news addict, London and Sydney lover, trance music aficionado and sports and adventure nut. Her website: http://www.marinathomas.com/