We first started watching the Volvo Ocean Race in 1997/98. It was the last year it was called the Whitbread, and Bay Area sailor Paul Cayard — along with John Kostecki, Mark Rudiger and Kimo Worthington — would go on to win the ‘regatta’ on board the Swedish-flagged EF Language.
The last Whitbread was especially exciting because it was ‘online’, which was something of a revolutionary concept at the time. ‘Online’ meant that there were crude position updates and what we would now call blog posts every few days (as well as the occasional low-resolution photo or video). Prior to that, you usually had to wait for the hour-long, Gary Jobson-narrated wrap up to come out on VHS a few months after the event finished.
The ‘blog’ posts were like reading a few pages from a sea novel every few days. We waited eagerly for the next updates from EF Language, not unlike waiting for your favorite magazine to hit the newsstands . . .
How times have changed.
The current Volvo Ocean Race — which is about halfway, or 10 days into Leg 2 from Portugal to South Africa — can be viewed 24/7, and is complete with real-time wind conditions and countless video updates. Leg 2 traditionally weaves through the doldrums and has seen numerous lead changes, as well as the traditional ‘King Neptune’ hazing ceremonies at the equator. The boats are about to hit the trade winds off the coast of Brazil, and may start trickling into Cape Town as soon as next week. (The start of Leg 2 out of Lisbon featured some of the most spectacular sailing we’ve ever seen — the kind of footage that made you proud to be a sailor).
The video updates have slow motion, captions and music edited cleanly together. It’s like the Gary Jobson VHS, but in real time and every few days. There are even interviews from the shore studios with sailors onboard the boats. Because it comes in tidy little high-production segments, the VOR feels (at least to us) far more punchy and exciting than other high-profile events (like a little regatta called the America’s Cup).
Are you a fan of the Volvo Ocean Race (or the former Whitbread)? Are you watching this year? Are you rooting for anyone in particular? We’d like to hear your thoughts.