Wednesday, 4 January 2012

At the heart the race - and so much more

Live race data showing on the VOR website 
Watching the leg 2 part 2 sprint from Sharjah to Abu Dhabi over 98 nautical miles, I’ve witnessed a fantastic deluge of reportage. 

Right now I’m sat in the media centre in a small white Formica booth with no windows - but I’ve never felt more connected with the race fleet as they battle up the coast in a building 20 to 25 knot Shamal desert wind.

I can see each boat’s position updated every 10 seconds, delivered using FleetBroadband 150, with telemetry that feeds the VOR website’s online yacht tracker. It is beautifully efficient, transmitting only 80 bytes per second with pinpoint accuracy. 

Position reporting
As if the position reporting wasn’t enough, it’s also delivering live data from the yachts’ onboard systems, including distance to leader, heading, average speed, instant speed, average and maximum wind speeds, true wind direction and even average wave height.  

The live theme continues with radio interviews streamed from each boat which transport you right into the heart of the action.

Volvo’s Rick Deppe is using the live video conferencing at 256kbps transmitted via FleetBroadband 500 to place us literally on the boats.

Real conditions
I feel like tipping a glass of water over my head to simulate real conditions on board! 

As well as live footage from the yachts, the media crew member (MCM) on each boat is snapping photographs and shooting HD video. 

They are editing their material I and using the onboard store-and-forward media capabilities to beam over their high-quality footage, which will appear on the web and later on the world’s news desks and TV documentaries. 

MCM videos
Each MCM has been tasked with sending 10 stills and six 15MB videos. 

To top this, Volvo HQ calls the boats for quick quotes and interviews from the race crews using Inmarsat FB150. 

All in all, on an important media race day like this, it’s safe to say that Inmarsat communications are not only at the heart of the race - but provides the backbone, the spinal cord and the big toe of all the communications.  

Data syndicated
Race HQ won’t give me a total of how many people are following the race today online, as all this data is being syndicated out to more than just the Volvo Ocean Race website. 

My rough calculations from just the ticker running on the live blog commentary, is that many thousands are tuning in from around the world.  

Mark Covell

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