How to shoot a regatta

Published on July 28th, 2021

Sebastian Slayter and Chelsea Slayter, a husband-and-wife team, were in charge of shooting footage for American Magic, Challenger for the 36th America’s Cup. Here, Sebastian talks to Linda Codega,, about the lessons they learned on and off the water.

Do you have any previous sailing experience?
I grew up in New York City and my mom enrolled me at a sailing camp one summer when I was 8 as a way to get some time on the water. I was hooked instantly. I was fortunate enough to race dinghies and larger sailboats throughout my childhood. I stuck with it and worked on charter boats in New York Harbor all through high school, then eventually became a sailing instructor.

When I got to college at NYU, my focus shifted for a few years and I decided to pursue cinematography. In 2015, I got a phone call from a friend of mine who was working for the US Olympic Sailing Team, asking if I might be interested in making some branded content for the team in Rio de Janeiro. I jumped at the opportunity and we continued working together over the years.

In 2017 I was invited back to shoot for their Tokyo 2020 campaign. These experiences culminated into a job offer to shoot commercial and branded content work for American Magic, one of the challengers in the 36th America’s Cup. I also own a small sailboat and my wife and I go out cruising in our free time.

What was the goal of each shoot day? What were you trying to get from the footage?
When we first got the call to start working with American Magic, we knew it was going to be a challenging project. The America’s Cup is all about technology and innovation, so there’s a tremendous amount of secrecy within the teams. They are all given the same set of design parameters they have to work within, but how the teams choose to interpret those parameters is totally up to them.

Basically, they are inventing technologies as they progress. So teams are constantly spying on one another, trying to figure out who’s got the faster, more innovative boat. Every day we were on the water there were spies following our boat. It’s as much a design competition as a sailing competition.

We knew we weren’t going to be able to get a full crew on the team’s base. My wife and I have a small production company together, she’s a director, and we knew it was going to be just the two of us for most of the project.

It isn’t standard practice to have cameras in these high-security design areas, so it took over a year of shooting to build up the team’s trust in us to tell their story. – Full story

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