An array of custom-built miniature HD cameras designed to operate for nine months under extreme conditions are being used to capture the Volvo Ocean Race.

Five onboard mini-HD cams have been rigged to a media control system in each of the eight competing yachts by Livewire Digital.

The units incorporate Sony FCB-H10 block camera technology with wide-angle lenses inside a water-resistant housing.

The cameras have had a pan, tilt and zoom mechanism, battery and a system for remote control over broadband added, as well as roll compensation software so, as the yacht is keeled over, the camera's horizon is kept level.

“You couldn't take off-the-shelf kit and expect it to last more than a few hours in this environment,” said Livewire Digital managing director Tristan Wood. “We've made basic equipment more rugged to help it survive the extreme weather, continuous vibrations and corrosive salt water.”

Livewire Digital's Media Desk 70, a control centre which incorporates technology widely used for remote news gathering, relays transmissions from the onboard cameras over Inmarsat's Fleet Broadband satellite service.

The firm also designed two fixed waterproof mics per yacht, each with detachable windjammer and 20dB of isolation to reduce noise and vibration. It has also created waterproof wireless talkback mics for the crew.

Footage is fed into Sunset + Vine's production which includes 39 x 30-minute highlights for Sky Sports and monthly 9 x 60-minute coverage for Channel 4.

Executive producer Harold Anderson said: “Nothing like this on this scale has been attempted before. Not only are we taking multiple feeds from the middle of the ocean over nine months, but we're also distributing all content from race HQ via FTP instead of satellite. That's pretty groundbreaking. The aim is to maintain the quality of HD as far as possible.”

The race began last month from Spain along a 37,000 nautical mile route ending in St Petersburg next June.