Volvo Ocean Race MCMs
For the January/February 2012 issue of Sailing World, we took a closer look at the daily lives of the media crewmembers circling the globe with the Volvo Ocean Race. Here’s the full transcript of our conversation with PUMA Ocean Racing’s Amory Ross, Telefonica’s Diego Fructoso, and Camper/Emirates Team New Zealand’s Hamish Hooper, which took place midway through Leg 1:
Can you describe a day-in-the-life of a media crewmember while under way?
Amory Ross: The days are surprisingly busy for someone who lives on a sailboat but isn’t allowed to sail. My day starts at about 2:45 AM (all times UTC) when I wake up and go through the day’s food bag. From the food bag I pull three freeze-dried meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) snacks, candy, protein bars, and other various assorted items like toilet paper, baby wipes, etc., and move them to the day bag’ at the base of the mast, or the head. What was left from the previous day is moved to an extras bag for rationing purposes.
I then cook breakfast so it’s ready around 3:40, just in time for the 4:00 watch change; coffees as needed.
Next I settle in by the computer and write my blog‚ MCMs are required to write 200 words a day‚ which is due by 6:00. When that’s finished, I start editing photos and videos from the previous day.
When this is done, it’s usually close to the 6:00 watch change, so I’ll stay up to serve breakfast and make coffees. Then it’s time to go back to bed, or, depending on where we are in the world and what it’s doing outside, shoot the sunrise.
Whichever it is, I’m back in front of the computer around 9:30 to finish editing the day’s material (I will have added content from the morning) and send it off the boat. MCMs are required to send two-minutes of video and five photos to Volvo Ocean Race HQ by 12:00. It has to be done before 10:30, because that’s when I return to clean the pot for lunch. I start cooking again at 11:00 so it’s ready in time for the 12:00 watch change.
When lunch is over I’ll finally have a chance to breathe, and that’s usually when I’ll start the filming. I’ll work until 5:00 and then head down to start the editing process again. By 6:30 I’m cleaning the pan, and I start cooking at 7:00 for the 8:00 watch change.
After eating some dinner myself, I head to bed, usually around 9:00. Depending on the conditions I’ll be up a few more times between then and 2:45 to make some coffees and bail.
I’ll be bailing all day as well, whenever I have time or whenever it’s needed. These boats are extremely waterproof, but in the wet conditions there is just no way to keep water out; it is a constant procedure and one that is never over.
Diego Fructuoso: Make the videos, write, take pictures, take audios, clean the boat, make the food (cook), help the crew, make the water to drink, put the water out of the boat (we have a lot inside)…A lot of work in very difficult conditions.
Hamish Hooper: My alarm goes off at 5 a.m. each morning, but this isn’t necessarily when I get up, as often I don’t hear it. Luckily, I sleep right by the Nav station, so there’s generally a navigator there who will wake me up and give me grief about how many times I snooze my alarm for.
I am pretty much straight into the galley to make sure that breakfast is prepared and ready for the watch change over at 6 a.m. The guys going on watch will have breakfast, and the guys coming off as well, then two hours later another couple of watches will have theirs.
Then I am straight back into the media station to finish writing my daily written report, which is due to be delivered at 6 a.m.
Generally, there is still a couple of hours darkness before sunrise, so I will get back into the galley to give it a full clean, warm wash the dishes, clean out last night’s dinner, restock snacks, etc. Depending on the conditions, this can take a bit of time. Then I will do some bailing, and sponging, which on these boats is pretty much an endless task, best done in full wet weather gear so you can just slosh around in it.
If the sun still isn’t up, I will start looking through my photos from the previous afternoon and sorting through which ones will be the select five to send back to Volvo. I also will continue putting together my two minutes of video, which, along with the photos, has a 12:00 p.m. deadline.
In the small amount of time, if any spare before 10:45am, I will shoot/film anything else I need to complete my daily video/photo packages.
10:45 is back into the galley to put a freeze-dry meal on for lunch, which needs to be ready for the guys going on watch at 12:00 p.m.. In this hour before midday I will also do my uploading of video/photo packages.
I then generally have a few hours in the afternoon to film/photograph what’s going on, plan stories, review photos and footage, etc.
Then 4:45pm it’s back into the galley to get rid of the lunch meal and get straight into cooking dinner. Today it was out the vegetable curry lunch and on with the roast lamb and vegetables.
Then pretty much from 5:30 p.m. until about 10:30 p.m. its back to my media station, making media, doing audio interviews, a touch of editing, sorting photographs, writing, etc.
Then, in between all of these times, is facilitating live phone or video interviews for the crew, making cups of tea or coffee, bailing and sponging, and of course eating a can of tuna or muesli bar or something.
So its a pretty full on and time specific agenda.
What new skills have you been acquiring since joining the team?
Ross: Insomnia! Cooking in a hostile environment. Living in a state of lasting uncleanliness. Also, preparedness. My cameras need to be set up and ready to go, and everything needs to be where I can find it, because things happen quickly out here, and there’s no time to spare. My shooting time is already so limited as it is that I have to maximize every chance I get. And preparedness is the most important part of that.
Fructoso: I have learned all that I know about the videos, pictures, etc. I am a sailor, and the other things are new for me.
Hooper: I have learnt to sleep pretty well on a VO70, which is no easy task. Cooking freeze-dry food.
What is the biggest challenge?
Ross: Time management. I have a ton to do onboard, and my priorities are always split. I could go heavy on the content generation, but that would take away from my duties to the team, like snack and bar distribution, coffee making, bailing, etc. I could go heavy on the team duties, but that would take away content and from my responsibility to the sponsors and to the race. There’s a fine line somewhere in the middle, and it’s extremely important I find it’ and stay there. I’m here to capture the 10 other guys on the boat, but I’m also here to help them. The sponsors know that, and they also know that the better we’re doing, the better the content gets. Ten happy guys is a lot more interesting than 10 angry guys.
Fructoso: Today is a big example. The biggest challenge: write an e-mail with 23 knots of speed, with very warm weather, etc….And I can’t imagine this with cold weather.
Hooper: I think the biggest challenge for me is sea sickness, and I guess getting used to life onboard, which I think I am slowly getting more and more used to. Sea sickness is hopefully becoming a bit more manageable, but in the end it’s really just a pain in the arse.
Are there certain aspects of your duties (photography, video, writing, sailing, cooking) that you’re more confident in than others?
Ross: Obviously photography and sailing are my strengths. I was a professional sailing photographer before this race, and I’ve been a life-long sailor. I started learning video a few years ago, and while there’s a certain quality my background brings to the work I’m doing, I know I have a long way to go. The writing is fun, and the cooking is easy: just add water! The secret to cooking so far is in the complements’ plenty of sauces, like BBQ, Chalula, chili sauce, and ketchup.
Fructoso: Sailing, for sure.
Hooper: My background is predominantly in video production, so I guess this I feel most confident in. I really enjoy photography, but I think I have the most to learn and improve here. Writing I actually quite enjoy. It can be a chance to use imagination a bit and try to get across mine and the crew’s experience onboard the boat. Cooking, I’m not a big fan of, especially in our galley, but I think I’m getting used to it, and putting a bit more love into. Sailing‚ well I’m not allowed to, so that’s a good thing, when you look at the skills of the guys I’m onboard with.
What is the most fun part of your job?
Ross: Anytime I have a camera in my hand. It’s what I love, and it’s why I’m here. Only five other guys in the world get to be out in these oceans, on a boat like this, with a camera; it’s a privilege I will never take for granted.
Fructoso: Sailing with my friends, living in a boat….
Hooper: Being part of a really great team. Not only the 10 other guys on the boat, but also all of the shore crew. It is an amazing group who seem to really enjoy each other’s company, which is a very important thing in a campaign like the Volvo race.
What scares you about the journey that lies ahead?
Ross: Losing perspective, originality. Running out of new angles. Already things that only a week ago seemed interesting have become normal to me. Going 27 knots. First time: WOW moment. Third consecutive day of it: so when are we going to hit 40?
Hooper: Crossing the equator for the first time in a few days.
Does the crew treat you like one of their own, or are you more of a fly on the wall?
Ross: One of their own. We’ve got a great group of guys on the team’ a very experienced group’ and they know that for them to do well in this race they need everyone’s help. The more they make me feel like a part of the team, and they have, the more I want to help, the more enthusiastic I get about meals, coffees, and snacks. It’s the only way I can legally enhance the performance of this boat. Of course, it also helps make my media job easier. It will be a lot easier to ask a difficult question if I’m one of 11 rather than an outsider to 10. I’ve spent a lot of my time working on that, on being a part of the team. Going to all of the workouts, team meetings, etc.
Fructoso: For sure, they help me, and I help them. I am part of the crew, but with a different role.
Hooper: I am really lucky that the guys I guess have taken me in and treat me like one of the team. They appreciate what my role is and that it plays an important task for everyone, especially our sponsors, who without we wouldn’t be doing what we do.
Have their been any initiation rituals?
Ross: None yet, but the equator is only two days away (see photos of the rituals here)
Fructoso: I’ve never crossed the equator, and all the crew are waiting for this moment to make the “King Neptune” ritual. I am a little bit nervous with this, jejeje. They told me a lot of stories about this during this days.
Hooper: No initiation rituals, but I am sure there will be something along those lines when we cross the equator!
Learn any good jokes?
Ross: Not any clean enough to write in a magazine!
Hooper: Yep, and as the skipper is an Aussie: Why wasn’t Jesus born in Australia? They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.