The Give and Take of the Sailor, Media Relationship

  • Share

Vendee Arctique sailors chose to put the extreme restriction of sailing solo on their careers. But that does not mean they are alone. Today, thousands of bits of media - video footage, audio clips, written stories and reports - are beamed to a global audience each race and the sailors are at the center of this communications machine.

Everyone  loves to follow the sailors’ adventures but there must be a balance for the athlete. Chris Museler talks with Kojiro Shiraishi (DMG MORI GLOBAL ONE) and Laura Le Goff, general manager of the Vendee Globe, to get both sides of the equation.

Kojiro Shiraishi, Skipper, DMG MORI GLOBAL ONE

CM: You had a touching moment with your wishes for the bird that stopped for a rest. You could have easily not shared that scene with us and I’m sure there are many times where you keep the experience to yourself. It’s a part of that wonderful connection with the environment and the world that only you get to have.

How do you balance the demands of media and the race with your needs to focus and  even enjoy your experience?

KS: It is of course hard to balance the demand of medias and racing but I try to communicate the most I can. The reason why I do so, is to use the media as much as possible to make offshore sailing more popular in Japan. I am the only one in the IMOCA class who can appeal to the Japanese public, so I try to do the most I can. For a single handed sailor, it is very demanding to do so, but this is also part of my job to send photos and videos of what I experience in these races. Especially to make all these wonderful races known in Japan.

I am not sailing alone, I have partners, sponsors, I have lots of people who encourage me. These videos and photos are my present to them. Show them what I experience, what kind of race I am doing. etc. I try to communicate the most I can but I also make sure the boat also goes forward.

CM: How do you use the human connection to your advantage while racing solo in the ocean?

KS: Human connection is the most important part in our sport because we are single handed, we need the support of as many people around us. For me I try to take care of my team. Team work is the most important aspect for me. The thought of trying to do your best for someone is always present. Alone we cannot do anything, especially myself, I am not a good racer, I need to surround myself with lots of people to be able to do what I do. This is why human connection is important to me.

In the sport we do, we are sometimes obliged to go rescue someone or being rescued by somebody. We need to always communicate to as many people as possible, to connect with beautiful people makes my life more fulfilled. It's not because I am doing single handed racing that I like being alone. I try to be surrounded with as many beautiful people so I can have a fulfilled life.

CM: Is it different when you are not racing but still alone?

KS: Of course it is different. When I am racing, I am risking all my life 24hrs a day against the nature. The amount of concentration you need is tremendous! When I am alone on land, I sometimes isolate myself. I do this to relax and to reflect on myself. Nowadays it is hard for us to be in a world that is not connected with all the phones, IT that surrounds us. At sea, or even on land I try to take time to reflect on myself to understand myself deeply.

CM: Do you ever take off alone, shut off the phone and spend time in solitude? And what's the difference between solitude and being alone?

KS: On land, with all my sponsor meetings and friends meetings, I do not have much time I spend alone. But sometimes, I try to go golfing alone. This is where I shutdown with the outside world. This is a break from the everyday life.

The difference between solitude and being alone is the difference between your true self and the reality. If you are true to yourself, you don't have any problems you go on and life follows. But if you are not true to yourself, you don't like what you are doing, then this is where there is a gap from reality and you feel the solitude in yourself.  You can be surrounded by many people and still feel solitude. In mega cities you usually find people like that. When I do zen alone, I am alone but my life is fulfilled with positive images and makes me a happier person.

CM: Maybe that’s the question: What are the rewards of being truly alone??

KS: The best thing about being alone is to have time to reflect on myself. All the answers are within yourself. Your own self is creating the reality you are in. Your real self, your true feelings, what you are thinking and what you are doing, it is important that everything needs to align. If one of these is not right, you feel emotions, you are sad.

The way I try to get all these aligned is by practicing zen, by doing yoga, by walking alone, to try to dig deeper in myself to find my true self and align all my feelings towards one direction.

Laura Le Goff, Vendee Globe General Manager

CM: What are the media requirements for the sailors and how is that content used/aggregated?

LL: In order to communicate effectively about the race, we ask skippers for a set of images. This is the case in the Vendée Globe and in the Vendée Arctique.

For example on the Vendée Arctique, during the race, two photographs and two minutes of video images every two days must be provided to the organization.

To complete, we also ask for five photographs and five minutes of video images taken before departure. The objective is really to have all the necessary content to communicate about the skippers and their race!

These images are made available free of charge to the media on a server, which ensures wide distribution of the images of our races (190 countries).

CM: Why is it important to the race to have this much access to the sailors?

LL: The general public must be given the means to follow, understand and analyze the course of the event and the adventures of the sailors in the race.

It is a real challenge to tell the story of several dozen men and women who set out alone to sail in the middle of the ocean, far from any land! A technological challenge and an editorial challenge because there are as many stories as there are sailors…

However, if communication around these adventurers and competitors is essential, it is nonetheless fundamental, in my opinion, to keep a part of the dream and the imagination.

CM: Can you give an example of a real special or funny moment of interaction with the sailors during one of the races?

LL: With my team we remember the vacations with Jean le Cam. It was sometimes quite fun! Especially when he answers you in the setting of the banquet of Asterix!