Life at the Extreme, The Series: Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15

Published on September 5th, 2014

Life at the Extreme is a documentary series of 39 thirty minute programmes starting October 2014, which will follow the seven teams competing in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race around the world.

The television series is about a bunch of people stuck in a boat facing mother nature and trying their upmost to be the best of the best under the watchful eyes of their own onboard reporter…and the rest of the world.

Frenchman François Gandolfi, with a background of making hit documentaries and dramas, but zero experience in sports programmes, is the surprise choice to direct the race’s flagship half-hour weekly show.

Gandolfi admits he knows “absolutely nothing” about sailing but his glittering list of credits in British TV over the last two decades includes Hairy Bikers, The Gadget Show, Embarrassing Bodies, A Place in the Sun and many, many others.

“We looked at a large number of respected directors to make our 39-part weekly show Life at the Extreme but Francois stood out as someone who could help us reach new audiences,” says Volvo Ocean Race Communications and Marketing Director, Björn Alberts.

“This is one of the most dramatic human stories on the planet – not to mention one of sports’ most challenging tests of mind and muscle – and François’s record of producing compelling programmes about the lives of ordinary people doing extraordinary things make him the perfect choice for us to help us in our ambitions to attract new fans.”

Gandolfi did not flinch from the challenge of filming the Volvo Ocean Race’s remarkable story in a way never before seen in 41 years of history after it was first launched as the Whitbread Round the World Race, becoming offshore sailing’s leading professional test.

“I’m fascinated why anybody in their right mind would want to do this race,” he says. “I’ve made programmes all my life featuring remarkable men and women but never a group like this undergoing such a remarkable challenge day in day out for nine whole months across nearly 40,000 nautical miles.

“Some people think sailing is a leisurely, civilised pursuit – Life at the Extreme will show that for the guys and the girls in offshore racing that’s anything but the truth.”

Race organisers hired Sunset+Vine, the award-winning UK independent TV sports production and media company, including leading sailing producer Leon Sefton, to produce the show from late September 2014 to June 2015. Each boat has a reporter on-board to record fly-on-the wall footage for the programme.

Andrew Preece, joint managing director of Sunset+Vine|APP, Sunset+Vine’s specialist sailing unit, says:

“The decision taken to appoint François Gandolfi is designed to bring viewers close to the reality of life as a participant in one of the most extreme events in world sport. This is just one of a number of innovations – including running a 24-hour production unit at Race HQ in Alicante – that will bring viewers closer to the action and the jeopardy team’s experience on a 24/7 basis. It a theme that will lie at the heart of our coverage.”

More than 75 broadcasters around the world have already commissioned Life at the Extreme, which will start the week before the Race’s first leg begins on October 11 from Alicante to Cape Town.

Background: The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race starts October 4 and will take the 7-boat fleet to 11 cities in 11 countries – Spain, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, China, New Zealand, Brazil, United States, Portugal, France, The Netherlands, and Sweden – and will require the teams to cover 38,739 nautical miles over nearly nine months. It will be the first edition using the new one design Volvo Ocean 65 racing boats. Race website:


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