The technology to convert a sailing boat in a TV studio

Imagine spending nine months at sea, on a journey that will take you through all the major oceans. Imagine spending weeks without seeing land, without talking to anyone other than members of your crew, almost without knowing anything about what happens beyond the horizon. Not talking about the sailors of centuries past. Today there are who launch into an experience so pure spirit of adventure and overcoming.

In October, the Volvo Ocean Race will depart from the port of Alicante, and for nine months, seven teams will travel a total of 38,793 nautical miles (about 71,850 kilometers) with a stopover in South Africa, Abu Dhabi, China, New Zealand, Brazil, United States, Portugal and France among others.

But besides an adventure for the participants, the race aims to be a show for the audience that wants to follow worldwide. Its organizers emphasize the human stories that live aboard. “This is like a reality show, but much more real”, says Knut Frostad, the CEO of Volvo Ocean Race. The problem is that the action takes place away from the public, miles, and no possibility of a relay team for the television audience. What technology is involved in the equation?

Boats designed as TV studios

The secret is in the boat itself. In previous editions of this event, which has been held every three years since 1973, each team designing your own boat? In a sport of precision, this made options victory depended much on the economic possibilities of each team, i.e. its sponsors. In this year, the organization is responsible for the design and construction of ships. Victory depends more than ever on the human factor.

“When we started recording the tests we realized that none of the crew wanted to take it. It is normal, they will want to win. With the design in the hands of the organization, has taken great care to make them safe, competitive… and fit for the show. These were designed as television studios”, says Jordi Neves, the CTO of Volve Ocean Race. In total, five cameras will record everything that happens on board, and several microphones placed at strategic points to keep water and strong winds, will capture the conversations among the crew.

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Under the cover have located a mount point and edit video the reporter responsible on board. This is another novelty: each boat carried a reporter whose functions are only documenting the journey “and make food, like other” jokes Neves. He does not take orders or participate in navigation. “When we started recording the evidence.. we realized that none of the crew wanted to take it. It is normal, they want to win. So we include a person, organization, dedicated exclusively to it”, says Frostrad.

The reporter writes, mount, edit and send. The boats are equipped with a SIM card that will use mobile networks when you find them (in areas close to ground). In this case provides the operator Truphone, which eliminates roaming to include several numbers on each card, from different countries, so that always acts as if it was in its home network.

The data is sent, but not received

But considering that the ship will spend more time at sea, where you can not capture any mobile network, most of the transmissions are made via satellite. “So they assembled and edited the video board and are not sent in the rough. Satellite transmissions are more expensive, you have to send only the latest”, says Neves.

But it is not only the reporter the sending data. The ship itself is equipped with sensors that measure up to a hundred parameters including speed and boat position and climatic conditions it faces at all times. Send data continuously monitoring center to track the status of the competition.

“We can not follow us with a helicopter or other boats, but it we do receive data and geolocator to each participant”. The members of each team, however, know nothing of everyone else. The receipt of information from the outside is prohibited. “All communications go through us, including family. When you are competing, you are alone”.

Years ago the only way to follow the race was asking information via fax, and most were invented because the truth was that there was no way to follow. This is to avoid copying advantages and strategies. “If the parameters might receive another ship would be easy for them to determine an algorithm for its strategy,” said Neves. Keep them on the destitution of what happens with the other participants increases the thrill of competition.

But in the control center really know at all times where they are and how they are participants, and from there has the whole world through internet. “Years ago the only way to follow the race was asking information via fax, and most were invented because the truth was that there was no way to follow it. Technology has evolved and now you feel you’re in one of the boats, or almost”.


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