Amory Ross: Sharing the Volvo Ocean Race

Published on May 21st, 2015

Amid the new field of Volvo Ocean Race onboard reporters, American Amory Ross is a veteran. As one of only two reporters to do a second run around the world, Amory shares insight of what it takes to share the race…

Fundamentally the role within this edition is quite similar as the previous race. The requirements off the boat are near identical, as we still send 7-8 photos, 2-3 minutes of video, and a written story. So that part is the same. Probably the biggest difference is the directive of the race in guiding the story and the acceptance of the onboard reporter amongst the sailors.

It’s been three races now having someone with a camera onboard, and for the race veterans, some of whom were resistant to the idea, they are now seeing the value of the role and how the race has benefited. What’s neat is how some of these veterans are also now the most interesting people on the boat. They are used to the cameras, and their race experience and general wisdom make for good content.

For the guys I am working with on Alvimedica, Mark and Charlie grew up living through this content. The onboard reporter is what they know as being standard, so generally speaking, all the sailors want us there now. The progression has come quite far considering the early resistance during that first race.

Amid this progression is the heightened coordination amongst the reporters. The subjects we cover now follow more of a plan, so we aren’t all repeating the same thing. The goal is to provide a complete picture of the race each day, and not all be talking about how bad the food is. This helps then to balance the daily online show that Genny Tulloch hosts, and then the weekly show that is getting distributed for television.

My personal progression has been to expand my photo background, which I rely on heavily. I have pushed myself to find new angles and new ways of looking at things. This is the challenge as these boats can get pretty small and you can run out of ideas. Additionally, I have focused on improving the writing and video, recognizing that these areas take more and different type of planning to gain a great result.

Ultimately the reporter role is trying to connect with the sailors, to show what they do, and to share it with some creativity. I think a lot more now on how to tell their entire story, rather than just, for example, holding the button down and hoping to find it amid the content. That has been how I have personally evolved in this role, and seeking to maximize my skills with all three tools to best fulfill the task.

This role can be tricky as, like I said, the boat is small so it is hard to remove ourselves from the crew. But the diversity, creativity and skill amid the reporters in this race is allowing us all to tell the same story in different ways. The reality, though, is it’s up to the sailors to maximize the potential of the onboard reporter.

The sailors are now accepting that we are onboard, but these are all very interesting people, and the better they become at being interesting in front of a camera rather than when its off, than the project can move forward even further. I wish I could have the camera on at all times to gleam all the moments, capturing those moments when the sailors are interacting with each other rather than with me. Those moments are more authentic and honest, which provides for great content to share.

Within the design of the Volvo Ocean 65, there was more consideration given to helping the reporter. There are now a total of five fixed cameras, one more than the Volvo Ocean 70, but among the reporters we all use these cameras differently. It is great to have all the options, though my preference is still to rely on the hand-helds to get me as close as possible to the subject.

The VO65 did improve our work space. We now have a desk for both sides of the boat, whereas on the 70 I worked from my bunk. I still try to work from the bunk to keep my weight outboard but it’s nice to know that I have a place to sit down when I need to. In comparison to the 70, the 65 is pretty luxurious.

The race is in an enviable position. In the past they were teaching sailors how to use the cameras provided, but now the race is attracting people with camera experience, and the need for the race to provide the gear may not be necessary for the next edition. Just like in sailing equipment, there are preferences with camera gear amongst professionals, and the race will benefit from the diversity in equipment. Different gear provides different looks, and this will enhance the story being shared.

I have been exceptionally happy for the past seven months. A low point might have been when we left China for New Zealand, and while I don’t tend to get seasick, there was something many of us caught when we departed, and the first few days of that leg were pure misery. Feeling wrong in some pretty heinous sailing conditions was rough, but what recall more strongly was the moment when I could go on deck, feeling right. That’s the reward that I love, and it’s that rush of being alive, which this race provides, that’s hard to replicate.

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Background: The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante, Spain on Oct. 11 with the final finish on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Racing the new one design Volvo Ocean 65, seven teams will be scoring points in 9 offshore legs to determine the overall Volvo Ocean Race winner. Additionally, the teams will compete in 10 In-Port races at each stopover for a separate competition – the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series.

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