Chris McLaughlin at Inmarsat on sending cinema-quality footage from extreme conditions.

Volvo Ocean Race
Vice president of external affairs, Inmarsat Chris McLaughlin
The challenge Enabling videographers to capture the high-profile, nine-month-long yacht race in HD for the first time.

This year the Volvo Ocean Race has upped the ante to make the world's premier yacht race - which is seen by a global audience of 2 billion - more attractive to sponsors and broadcasters.

It has entered a new era of HD satellite transmission using Inmarsat FleetBroadband technology, which means that for the first time the boats' on-board videographers have sent back cinema-quality HD material from inaccessible places in extreme conditions.

The clarity of the images brings us as close as any of us will get to the race action without being on a competing yacht.

With 39 weekly half-hour TV shows airing across the world and Sky and Channel 4 in the UK, around 90Gb of pictures - the equivalent of 20 DVDs - will be transmitted from the boats before the nine-month-long race finishes in St Petersburg this June.

The images captured by the seven on-board Sony HD and HDV cameras will this time arrive four times faster than the last race in 2005-06.

In addition to the technical challenge of high-quality on-board satellite transmission, we also had to find eight talented videographers who also had to be world-class sailors. Yep, rare animals indeed.

The trawl for broadcast talent was global, and training for our cameramen was intensive. They had to be able to cope with a complex on-board installation, with cameras hooked up to a media desk customised to withstand the extremes of weather and temperature, from sub-zero in the Southern Ocean to 45 degrees in the tropics.

Electronics and salt water don't mix well and repairs are intensive after every leg. The cameras, based on Sony CMOS CCD units, offer full 1080i HD. The stern camera constantly records two minutes of audio and HD video into memory. When something dramatic occurs, it is captured on tape by hitting one of three “crash record” buttons located around the deck.

Last week, more history was made. A live video-call across the Pacific to Il Mostro, the Puma-sponsored yacht - the first live streamed transmission of HDTV in the Southern Ocean.

Our videographers are now almost halfway round the world and so far none has jumped ship when they arrive in port, despite numerous broken bones and bruises.
Volvo Ocean Race airs weekly on Sky and Channel 4 in the UK.