Vendée Globe

Skipper as Vlogger

For me, one of the most interesting moments, in the 2016-2017 Vendee Globe was early on in the race, when Jean le Cam, complained about having to make videos

In the clip he sent, you can see that the talented sailor is unfamiliar with this new aspect of his job. He is unsure about how to use the equipment. In this first, slightly naive shoot, he describes how much of a burden making videos is. He makes it clear by his resentful tone that in his opinion, sailors’s time should be spent sailing and making the boat go faster. However he reveals making videos “is compulsory”, indicating that it is mandated by the racing committee. Looking at the text of the racing instructions this requirement is not actually explicit. However it’s shadow can be seen in two different sections: 15.2 Security Messages - which requires the participant to transmit daily his position to the racing comitee, as well as a brief description of both his health and that of the boat’s; and 21 Communications - that explains the candidates will be contacted daily by the race’s media team… It would be interesting to know what instructions were verbally given to the skippers.

The results of this new unofficial rule has not been positive in my opinion. It’s resulted in a deluge of videos. But the content just has not been compelling. An opinion apparently shared by others, as can be seen by number of views in the low thousands for the different videos on the Vendee Globe’s YouTube channel. As a point of comparison the crew of Sv Delos average 150 000 to 300 000 views for each of their videos.

In fact, the rule has reduced the courageous talented sailors of the Vendee Globe to little more than teenagers vlogging from their bedroom. And unfortunately often the content has been no more interesting, a mix of gimmicks to grab attention, narcissistic soul searching, and the sailing video equivalent of a tweet about eating breakfast. Engagement with the content has also been hindered with the fact that 29 sailors were battling it out on YouTube; exacerbating their desperate quest for attention… and a feeling of saturation experienced by the viewer

For me the most compelling footage from the race was that shot by French navy helicopters and by other aircafts at different stages of the race. Like the carefully choreographed videos released by some of the teams just before the race like this one of Edmond de Rothschild released by Team Gitana, these aerial videos capture how truly excpetional the IMOCA 60 boats are. They express the magic of these boats and of the race and one experiences awe when watching them… The numbers reflect this – the aforementioned video of Edmond de Rothschild has been viewed 275 000 times; this one of Alex Thomson, filmed by the French navy, 285 000 times…