Cobham takes to the seas

The Volvo Ocean Race standardizes on Cobham products.

Cobham Broadcast,  Cobham TCS, together with Cobham SATCOM, are partners and sponsors of the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 event. Cobham is supplying IP, wireless, satellite and other communications technology that has already proved itself indispensable on the first three legs of the competition.

The Volvo Ocean Race's history stretches back 42 years, when it was known as the Whitbread Round the World Race. Volvo took over sponsorship in 2001.

In a departure from previous races, this Volvo Ocean Race features vessels of a single design, the Volvo Ocean 65. Each vessel is the same shape and size with identical sails, keel, below deck space and steering mechanisms. This uniformity extends to the communications set-up. The Cobham TCS NETNode Mesh IP radio provides IP connectivity for email and internet access, with COFDM modulation to integrate video, audio and GPS information. "The IP capability gives a lot of flexibility," comments Volvo Ocean Race technology director Jordi Neves.

Two Cobham antenna systems are on the sterns of the boats: a Cobham SATCOM Sailor 500 Fleet Broadband used intermittently for live streaming and transfer of large video files, and the compact Fleet Broadband 250 which is always on and used mainly for email, telemetry and weather data.

Each crew includes a non-sailing member, the onboard reporter (OBR), whose main role is to shoot videos, stills and write blogs detailing progress in the race and life on the boats. Working at a media desk below decks, the OBR compiles reports from footage shot on handheld and onboard cameras using Apple Final Cut Pro. These are sent to the Volvo Ocean Race broadcast center in Alicante, Spain using LiveWire M-Link Newscaster software linked to the Cobham Fleet Broadband antennas. Material is then distributed to international broadcasters or transmitted on a dedicated IPTV channel.

Footage of onshore events and the arrival of the boats in each port is produced by Sunset+Vine. This includes shots from chase boats and helicopters that follow the racers into harbor. Cobham TCS HD SOLO transmitters are fitted on two rigid-hulled inflatable vessels as well as the aircraft for linking back to the production center.

As of 2 March 2015, the Volvo Ocean Race has reached Auckland, New Zealand.

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