Drones Are Winning the Volvo Ocean Race

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With the Volvo Ocean Race fleet firmly planted in the middle of the Southern Ocean, again, screaming towards Cape Horn, we have been treated to some spectacular video footage from aboard the boats. Most notably, the brave On Board Reporters (OBRs) are getting braver crazier with their drones, risking their equipment as they send back stunning aerial footage taken in excess of 40 knots of wind. The rockets boats are barrelling down massive waves as they gybe along the ice gate, an imaginary boundary preventing the teams from sailing too far south and into danger of colliding with icebergs.  This is not to say that the walls of water that come crashing into the cameras are not satisfying enough to us armchair sailors, it’s more that the opportunity is now there to get great aerial footage in the middle of nowhere as the boats are charging down waves at 37 knots. And that is something new and very appreciated. 

It’s not just the footage of the amazing conditions these boats and crews are enduring – it’s the collection of impressive footage from the boats, delivered hours after it was shot, that is blowing our minds. The drones are taking us to sea, giving us a glimpse into what life is like for the fleet and the sailors. Below you can even be taken INSIDE of the boat – in a totally innovative use of the drone, again showing how skilled and brave the OBR’s truly are in this edition of the race.

On Leg 6, on the way to NZ from Hong Kong, the boats endured the Doldrums yet again, and it was a perfect time to try some new tricks with the drones. Dee Caffari’s team, Turn the Tide on Plastic, even used the flying camera to check on a suspicious boat that was floating miles ahead in their path, abandoned at sea, which turned out to be the “Sea Nymph,” famous for its 2-woman crew and their 2 dogs who were “lost at sea” for months, only to be rescued, leaving behind their sailboat to founder in the ocean. Crews were suspicious of the half-sunken vessel which could have been a grave danger if discovered in darkness. But a quick trip for the drone over the boat revealed exactly what they suspected, the Sea Nymph is not yet sunk and is posing a danger to mariners off of the Solomon Islands.

Then there is the extreme drone flying. You have to see these videos of some of the craziest sailing and drone flying we have ever seen.The conditions are inhumane and it’s a great risk to fly a drone in the massive winds and waves.  At Point Nemo, the farthest spot from humanity, with the closest being the astronauts in the International Space Station, it’s ironic to feel safer because you’re surrounded by very close competition. And even stranger to be videoed going a blistering hull speed in the Southern Ocean. But we’re figuring out that nothing is strange in this race.  And everything is unexpected.

UPDATE: As of 4pm on 26 March (EST) Scallywag has reported a Man Overboard. They are currently in a search and rescue for the missing crew member. News will be updated first here, on the VOR website. We are all hoping they can get to the crew quickly. No one can last long in 40+ knots and massive seas. The crew member was wearing survival gear.  Fingers crossed…..




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