Volvo Ocean Race - How media crew members changed the event

Volvo Ocean Race Media crew members were introduced in the 2008-9 race and have since changed the face of the event. Many may debate that the most significant person to board a Volvo Open 70 is the person who doesn’t do any sailing at all.

Great stories that were previously told through recollections, emails and bits of footage, were swapped for vivid, blanket coverage from embedded reporters, taking the action from remote waters and broadcasting it via the latest technology to living rooms around the world. In a sponsor-driven event, such a leap in the quality of media coverage was a revelation. And far from easy.

'It was the most amazing but hardest assignment I’ll probably ever do,' says Sander Pluijm. He was already an experienced editor and director in Holland before taking the MCM job at Delta Lloyd, where he delivered a spectacular thirteen part primetime documentary for Dutch national television in addition to his huge output for the race organization.

'It is the most horrendous and wet place to work. Sometimes ecstatic, sometimes scared, but then you are also capturing incredible footage. It is great that we now have the technology to show the world what these top athletes do.
'As a media crewmember you are a cameraman, editor, director, writer, photographer, radio correspondent. They are different skills. One of the hardest things is getting the crew to trust you. When things are going well they are happy to talk to you. But when it goes wrong, it is a bit more difficult. The first time I covered a difficult moment was when the spreader came down on leg one. They saw the report was honest and knew I was on their side. That trust builds over the race and is essential.'

Given that MCMs cannot under the rules contribute to the sailing of the boat, they tended to make the crew’s meals in the last edition. 'Things like that help integrate you into the team,' Pluijm adds. 'The best journalist in the world can’t tell the story if the guys don’t open up. In the next race it’ll be easier in that respect because the sailors know exactly what the economic benefits are for better media.'

One area that won't get any easier will be the technological challenge. 'Electrical things don’t like salt water,' Pluijm adds. 'I was surprised how much they could take, but at the end of the race I had lost three or four laptops, five cameras and a photo camera. It's a hard race all round.'

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