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Volvo Ocean Race Onboard Reporter – the toughest job in sports media

It’s been called the toughest job in sports media; the Volvo Ocean Race is one of the toughest sporting events in the world. Sailors get by on very little sleep, burn thousands of calories per day and often subsist on just freeze-dried food when rations get low. The challenges and dangers at sea range from the natural – weather, waves, and icebergs – to man-made, like floating trash, giant container ships, even pirates. Just last month, Danish entry Team Vestas Wind was shipwrecked on a reef in the Indian Ocean and had to suspend its campaign until the boat can be rebuilt. The 12th edition of the race kicked off in October and is now headed east to China during Leg 3. Over the course of nine-months the fleet will travel 40,000 nautical miles across the globe in some of the most extreme conditions on earth.

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The seven OBRs were carefully selected and managed by three-time Volvo Ocean Race participant and former director on popular television series The Deadliest Catch, Rick Deppe. There were over 2,500 applicants from around the world to whittle down to a select few. Each of the OBRs must shoot, edit and transmit back a certain amount of footage, photos and text via satellite on a daily basis to Race HQ in Alicante. This footage then becomes the framework of the 30-minute TV show each week. Additional footage is also transmitted via live streaming. With the new one-design boat built from the ground up, special consideration was given to production needs in the construction of the Volvo Ocean 65 racing yachts, multiple cameras placed on the bow, spreaders and hatch as well as fixed microphones at the helm and hatch. A dedicated interview location just by the hatch, with protection for sailors and optimal viewing and audio was installed and there is a full-service media station below deck for video and photo editing, audio and transmission back to Race HQ. Like an embedded journalist on a military tank, OBRs are not able to help the team in anyway, but are fully reliant on their crew for safety and camaraderie over the nine months making it a delicate balancing act. Racing or assisting in sailing of any form is illegal by rule. OBRs are only allowed to cook and clean, while acting as fly-on-the-wall witnesses, seeing and hearing everything that goes on within the confines of these 65-foot boats. When, during Leg 2, Team Vestas Wind’s boat crashed up against the Cargados Carajos Shoals about 250 miles northeast of Mauritius last month, onboard reporter Brian Carlin had the dual role of being both part of the rescue effort and reporting the events at the same time. He helped deliver this stunning crash video that has been seen by more than 400,000 viewers. There’s never a dull moment in the life of an onboard reporter in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15. Brian Carlin, OBR of Team Vestas Wind says; “For me to be a part of a team who’s work ethic is far above what I’ve worked with before has been incredibly exciting — Chris Nicholson’s ethos and sense of team spirit. It’s hard to describe the bond this team has grown in such a short space of time. It’s the attitude of the individuals that make the group so strong and I’m really looking forward to it. The most difficult part is just the pressure to deliver high quality content daily and to constantly strive to push the boundaries of ones creative side in such extreme working conditions every day out on the boat.”

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