Clipper Race Celebrates ‘virtual’ Success Around Digital World – Sir Robin Knox-Johnston

By iSportconnect | May 15, 2014

The Clipper Race has just transited the Panama Canal in its centenary year, emerging into ‘home’ waters of the Atlantic to head up to New York via a stop in Jamaica. With 35,000 miles under their keels there’s just 5,000 miles and two months left to the finish in London on 12 July.

Since my last report for iSportconnect the fleet completed a stormy crossing of the Pacific, with the drama of recovering a man overboard. We saw iconic images of the fleet under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, followed by the race south into blistering temperatures and the canal transit through Panama.

This has been a busy period for our media team which takes full advantage of the latest technology to bring the race from the middle of an ocean to a rapidly growing world audience via an explosion of digital media channels.

Twelve identical yachts match racing across a 5,000 mile stage of the16-part global series is a long game and yet thousands of fans visit our Race Viewer hourly to see how their team is performing against the competition. Location data is sent back via satellite as they are polled on an hourly basis, although the frequency can be increased if the action demands it. There are two further backup location systems if required.

Within seconds the received data is transformed into coordinates and placed on a map on our web site and various mobile apps. There is also information on individual boat speeds and their heading which is also displayed. The distance to finish is recalculated and the leader board updated.

Our twelve identical 70-foot ocean racing yachts create the bigges tmatched fleet of its type in the world. Performance in the race is therefore down to the skills of the crew rather than boat design, but we have seen some very tight finishes where, after thousands of miles of racing, teams are neck and neck on the finish line.

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While the Race Viewer drives millions of visits during each biennial series, fans and media not only want to know where they are but what’s happening on board and how the tactics are playing out; what do the sea conditions look like and how is the crew bearing up?

A daily flow of skipper reports, crew blogs, photographs and videos comesback from the fleet every day. Media crew volunteers are trained in capturing their unfolding fortunes, with on board cameras and processing and editing there sults, before feeding them back via satellite links. We also have fixed cameras on board recording 24/7 which the crew can bookmark for rapid retrieval of exciting action and events by our team when they reach port, or sooner if necessary.

The content fills the different team pages of the official website, news, photo and video galleries, a daily emailed newsletter and constantly updated social media channels. In addition, the material is made available to the press via our media portal and other distribution mechanisms, with alerts sent to relevant outlets.

Despite all the planning to maintain this flow of race information, ocean racing is, by its very nature, unpredictable. Mother Nature will often remind us who is boss! And so it was in the middle of the world’s largest ocean, the Pacific, that one of our boats lost a crew member over the side in a storm. He plunged into the cold sea and was swept away quickly as the yacht charged along in strong winds and mountainous waves.

He was missing for well over an hour but was ultimately found and rescued from the mighty Pacific alive and relatively well. The crew did a magnificent job by putting all their training into practice. The whole incident was captured by the on board media crew and also our professional cameraman filming for the two international TV series to be distributed by BBC Worldwide.

By the time we were able to inform the casualty’s next of kin we had already received photographs, key video clips of the incident and rescue as a supporting resource to the press statement that could then be released. That immediacy not only enabled us to illustrate the story, but to demonstrate the training and professionalism at work in helping to avert a tragedy. It not only went viral in social media but was used extensively by the media and was not only seen across all the leading UK and US television news shows but also across the world.

This thirst for content isn’t confined to these sorts of incidents but isused continuously to tell the story of local heroes, the ‘ordinary’ people who achieve something remarkable by taking on one of the toughest challenges on the planet; countries following their national entries or brands charting their team’s progress and sharing it with their communities.

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The evidence is in our media figures which continue to outstrip the record-breaking performance of the last race. At just over the half way point we have already matched the cumulative global media audience achieved in the whole of the 2011-12 campaign in excess of two billion people (source: Kantar Media).

The TV graphics technology used in San Francisco Bay by the America’s Cuprevolutionised the event for spectators and is creating more interest in sailing. We have a slightly different proposition which extends beyond the confines of sailing into extreme human adventure. But the audience needs to understand what is happening and be able to engage with the compelling human stories and competitive spirit which drive the Clipper Race from strength to strength.

However, if we are unlikely to get you from your armchair and onto the deck of a boat you can still share in the experience. You can even compete through our official on-line game and race a virtual yacht in the same global series to emerge champion of the digital world. Good luck!

I’ll be packing my bags for New York shortly, the second port in our US coast-to-coast leg. From here I’ll be assessing the business side of the Clipper Race from our event at the NASDAQ in Time Square and the fleet’s New York home at North Cove Marina in front of the World Financial Centre.

You can follow the Clipper Race here: www.clipperroundtheworld.com where there are links to all the features mentioned in this month’s article. You can also visit the official YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/ClipperRTW and on Facebook and Twitter @ClipperRace


It is 45 years since Sir Robin Knox-Johnston set off on his record breaking solo, non-stop circumnavigation in 1968-69. In 1995, he established the Clipper Race, to give everyone, regardless of sailing experience, the opportunity to discover the exhilaration of ocean racing.

Now the world’s longest ocean race, 670 amateur sailors representing more than 40 nations will compete in the Clipper 2013-14 Race. They set sail from London on September 1 and will travel 40,000 miles on twelve Clipper 70’s in 15 races across all six continents, not returning to London till July 2014.

Youcan follow the Clipper 2013-14 Race at www.clipperroundtheworld.com and on Twitter via @ClipperRace. Follow Sir Robin on Twitter @SirRKJ.

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