Global WiFi

One of the biggest wildcards in the next Volvo Ocean Race will be the role of the dedicated media man. This crewmember will not have an actual sailing role (it remains to be seen if he/she can even help out with domestic duties such as cleaning the galley), but instead will be responsible for shooting still- and video footage of the boats as they rip their way around the world. This job will likely be one of the hardest aboard, as this crewmember will have to reconcile the fact that while they are not contributing too the boat’s speed, they are responsible to its public face and the images that the world sees of the team’s effort.

But how do you upload images, blogs, and video footage when you’re in the stormy depths of the Southern Ocean? The answer is Inmarsat’s FleetBroadBand technology. For the 2008/2009 event, Inmarsat will be the race’s official sat-comm provider, allowing the media man, as well as the rest of the crew, to send out voice and data transmissions — including high-definition TV — to friends and family ashore. In addition to Inmarsat, the VOR will use Stratos Global for mobile satellite services, and Thrane and Thrane for its satellite-and-radio communications gear. Says VOR CEO Knut Frostad, “By choosing FleetBroadBand, we have made this the most connected Volvo Ocean Race in history.” Big words considering the race’s rich legacy of media-friendly relations, killer photography, and gripping video footage, but with this viewers can expect this next VOR to be quite a multi-media fireworks show.

While the VOR expects some two billion people to view onboard content from this edition, this same gear will provide the sailors with navigation info and weather updates; crucial Beta when one is staring down a low-pressure system at the bottom of the world. “It’s also a huge reassurance for the crews to know that with FleetBroadband they are never alone,” says Frostad. “Their progress will be closely monitored and their stories will reach the teams, sponsors, spectators, and most importantly for them, their families.”

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Posted: March 10, 2008

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