The Volvo Ocean Race: Reporting from Experience

Team Alvimedica's Amory Ross explains one of the toughest jobs at sea - the onboard reporter

It’s the toughest job in the toughest sailing race: the onboard reporter. It’s a maniacal existence for thick-skinned storytellers and galley slaves. Their subjects are the mates they must coexist with, befriend, and entrust with their life. They shoot, edit, transmit, cook, and clean. For 140 days at sea, their studio is a dank, 65-foot carbon drum. Their workday is dictated by a brutal schedule, answering to the demands of race and sponsor. They must capture all elements of raw human emotion. When things go wrong, the camera must roll. The most experienced OBR in the fleet gives us a glimpse of what’s to come in the gallery above.

The Volvo Ocean Race isn’t always on the brink of insanity. It’s the image that’s often portrayed: high speeds, big waves, and strong winds. The extremity of a life at sea is easily dramatized by constant action, but there are long stretches without any. When onboard life slows down it’s never a case of having less to do. Everyone has their lists and notes from the past few days, whether it’s finally getting to them, or whether it’s preparing for the next phase of sailing.
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The idea is to be race ready as soon as possible, but that doesn’t just include sail crossovers and trimming techniques. Racing around the world is a huge undertaking and training sessions like this one are vital to things like communication skills and organizing life onboard. It’s why we’re here, now, and the learning never stops.
Alberto Bolzan, 32, of Italy, geared up for another watch, anticipates a return to the cockpit of Alvimedica during the team’s second transatlantic training run.
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The air is damp and the water is warm; the precious little fans are the only things keeping bunks bearable. But we don’t really know how much energy they take up, so we run them, and we run them hard because we need to learn.
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I find it exceptional, how one day you’re restless and rolling in your bunk because life is tame and you want to be productive, and the next you very simply don’t have time to do anything but survive. The contrasts are enormous, and they often change in an instant. One minute you’re on time, maybe ahead of your own schedule, and the next you’re two hours behind. Everything takes four times longer and is twice as exhausting.
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I remember concluding from the last Volvo Ocean Race that the first 500 and the last 500 are often the hardest miles of a leg: the first because you need to acclimate, and the last because you remember all of the things you’ve missed. I think it tricks us into thinking we’re closer than we actually are. 500 miles is 500 miles, and that’s still a long way to go.
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