On shore, Sébastien Josse lives like you, with his smartphone in his pocket. The skipper of the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild will do the same at sea, during the Vendée Globe. He won’t be using it to make a call, rather to share this unique adventure. As is the case on all the latest generation boats, Gitana 16 is extremely hard to live with. As such, it was necessary to design the simplest possible device to enable the solo sailor to send images back to shore. In a bid to be as lightweight, quick and energy efficient for the skipper as possible, the boat’s iPhone 7 has become the cornerstone of an innovative video system, created within Gitana Team by Yann Riou.
Sending photos and videos to the race organisation is compulsory within the rules of the Vendée Globe. As such, this parameter has been dealt with by Gitana Team like any other element, namely with the focus on performance. On-board ‘Reporter’ in two editions of the Volvo Ocean Race (crewed round the world race with stopovers) and, last winter, in the Jules Verne Trophy record attempt, Yann Riou joined the five-arrow team in the spring of 2016, with the main aim of designing the best possible on-board video solution for Sébastien Josse with a view to the Vendée Globe.
“This generation of boats has reached such a high level of performance that it’s becoming complicated, impossible even, to find places on deck where you can safely work and shoot,” he explains. “I’ve been lucky enough to sail on a whole host of different boats, Volvos, multihulls… I’ve never seen anything like this. Never before have I faced such obstacles in the way I approach a shoot.”
Once the observation was made, it was deemed necessary to find solutions for getting around the problem.
“Aboard Edmond de Rothschild, I have a very simple system that operates with a smartphone and Wi-Fi,” explains Sébastien Josse, who’s very open-minded when it comes to fine tuning new ideas geared towards being competitive. “I can make videos with an iPhone and all I have to do is turn on the satellite dish to send them! It couldn’t be simpler to use but it was a real technical challenge to fine-tune this solution in such a short space of time.”
Live and recorded, four cameras controlled from the iPhone
Two fixed cameras have been installed aboard Edmond de Rothschild. With wide angle lenses, one looking forward and the other towards the cockpit and the wake. They can even be used in rough weather and from down below if Sébastien has to stay sheltered. The skipper can also film and film himself with the two iPhone 7 cameras; a device that is waterproof.
Beyond the simplicity of having a smartphone in the pocket of your foulies so as to film or photograph what you want, when you want, the benefit of this solution is not having to carry a ‘media’ computer on the boat. Indeed, prior to this innovation, it was necessary to have a dedicated device on which to upload images, crudely edit them and then send them back to shore. That took time of course, but it also added a fair amount of weight as the skippers preferred to have a dedicated computer aboard so as to avoid any conflicts with the navigation software.
In terms of applications, Gitana Team has sometimes opted to combine solutions that are available commercially and ‘customised’ systems developed by Ektacom. The latter company specialises in video solutions and worked in collaboration with Gitana Team in this process. They notably designed and installed the elements that manage the different cameras and above all created an application for the ‘live’ footage. When Sébastien wants to be live on television, on the web, and on the social networks, he’ll use an application reminiscent of FaceTime but geared around the constraints of the satellite link.
Indeed, despite the progress of technology, an Internet connection is always low speed aboard: 256 kilobits, or less than a first generation ADSL… When they’re in the Deep South, far from the commercial shipping lanes, the competitors will also traverse vast deserts of satellite coverage.
A drone of course!
Finally, in light to medium weather systems, the skipper of Gitana 16 can try to take us to new heights mid-ocean by getting his drone airborne. Here too, it’s a simple model, sold commercially, which has taken up position aboard the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild. “It’s also an alternative to the demanding boat shots that enables the skipper to film what’s happening and the environment at a given time. We film around the boat with the drone, which creates some rather nice images,” Yann Riou continues. “With this in mind, Sébastien has trained himself to operate the drone. However, it’s not the same thing to use these machines when racing, singlehanded, as it is when you’re training in crewed configuration around Lorient…”