A Wet and Wild Armchair

/SW/ Editor Dave Reed gets ready to deliver the stories from the upcoming Volvo Ocean Race The "Editor's Letter" from our October 2008 issue

Reed Ocean Racing 368

Rick Deppe/puma Ocean Racing

I'm often asked how we divvy up the "big" assignments amongst the editorial staff here at Sailing World. Well, like newspapermen, we have certain beats that each of us personally take on and follow closely. In our sport, we've got the big three: the Olympics, the America's Cup, and the Volvo Ocean Race. Somehow, long ago, senior editor Stuart Streuli cherry picked the America's Cup and the Olympic beats, and he's been on site covering the AC action from Auckland and Valencia, and the Games from Sydney, Athens, and recently from Qingdao, China.

When it comes to covering these two events, nobody in the sailing magazine business comes close to Stu. He knows the athletes and he gets the access and the interviews to deliver first-rate reporting, podcasts, and photo galleries. A lot of other web "reporting" from Qingdao was done "remotely;" our man was the only U.S. sailing journalist on site, and his coverage was unrivaled. If you missed his reports and want a better appreciation for what went down in Qingdao, go to www.sailingworld.com and head to the Olympics page.

As for myself, I remember when I was the new guy on the staff and then senior editor Sean McNeill owned the Whitbread beat. I was always jealous that he was plugged into these maverick professional sailors, and how, as they finished their long ocean legs, he was the one who would bring their harrowing stories to the pages of this magazine. Remember, this was the early days of the Internet and e-mail. Back then, when the sailors hit the dock, the stories were fresh, honest, and riveting.

I'll never forget the Southern Ocean account from Curtis Blewett, bowman with EF Language in the 1997-'98 Whitbread Race, who was stropping a spinnaker at the top of the mast in the pitch dark in 35 knots of wind. As the spinnaker filled the boat careened out of control, chaos ensued, and someone mistakenly cut the halyard to which he was attached. If it weren't for a second halyard he'd attached to himself, which he said he rarely did, the outcome would likely have been fatal. "I was holding on like a koala bear, but the rig was pumping so violently," he said afterwards. "I was extending to my fingertips and then getting slammed into the mast with each pump."

Honestly, I think of this story every time I go up a rig-even at the dock. It's because of stories like Blewett's and the many others told during the last few editions of Volvo Ocean Race that I'll take this beat over any. I can't get enough of hearing about 400-plus-mile days, of leads gained and lost overnight, and the pure human resilience it takes to sail this race. The daily e-mails are already pouring off the boats, and there's an openness and honesty in them you won't find anywhere else in professional sailing. The experience is so unique it doesn't take much for these guys to tell a story you'll never forget.

As race organizers attempt to reach a greater global audience, we can now delve into it 24/7. Adding a dedicated media crew to deliver more content than ever from the boats is the single most important improvement. We'll be treated to quality onboard video, more compelling story telling, and a far greater sense of what motivates these men to risk their lives.

My story in this issue on the Volvo helmsmen only scratches the surface of what it takes to push these VO 70s around the world and in tight, in-port racecourses. I can't wait for the race to get underway in October, partly to learn who has the faster boat, the better sails, and the greater will to win. But mainly, I'm itching to hear the stories and to delivering the best of them to you.
-Dave Reed