Sailing Around the World, in His Father’s Footsteps

Blake is an onboard reporter, or OBR — one in every of 10 women and men employed by the race to ship video, images and written materials from the boats. The OBRs are, by job definition, fly-on-the-deck observers and should not permitted to assist with the efficiency of the yachts (though they’ll do a number of cooking).

Volvo Ocean Race: Eighth leg from Itajai, Brazil, to Newport, R.I. Video by James Blake from Turn the Tide on Plastic

But impartiality can show elusive while you share very cramped quarters and the perils of ocean racing throughout legs that may stretch to 7,600 nautical miles and final greater than 20 days.

“The most important thing is telling the story, but it’s a fine line we all have to dance between telling the good, the bad and the ugly,” Corinna Halloran, a former onboard reporter, as soon as stated.

That dance, by no means easy since embedded reporting turned a part of the Volvo in 2008, has been notably difficult throughout this version of the race, which has twice turned tragic.

In January, a fisherman was killed after the Danish-American crew, Vestas 11th Hour Racing, collided with a Chinese fishing boat. Then in March, John Fisher, a British sailor with the Hong Kong-based crew Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, was misplaced at sea and presumed lifeless after being swept overboard about 1,400 nautical miles west of Cape Horn.


James Blake is one in every of 10 women and men employed to ship video, images and written materials from the boats.

Jesus Renedo/Volvo Ocean Race

Largely for authorized causes, the race launched little detailed data from on board Vestas after the January incident. Konrad Frost, the OBR on Scallywag through the deadly leg in March, stopped reporting after it turned clear that Fisher had been misplaced.

“Konrad is a very experienced cameraman, and it was his judgment on what should and should not be captured,” stated Brian Carlin, the OBR crew chief. “Konrad stood down and did not continue, and I think that was only right.”

Fisher’s loss was an emotional blow.

“It’s definitely been a big shock to everyone,” Blake stated. “My initial thoughts were just with his family, because I have a little bit of experience with what they are going through.”

Blake was 14 when his father was killed throughout an environmental analysis mission.

The society’s yacht, Seamaster, was anchored in Macapa close to the mouth of the Amazon delta when a small band of masked river pirates got here aboard with weapons drawn and balaclavas in place. Peter Blake, in an try to guard his crew, fired a rifle and was shot twice within the again by Ricardo Colares Tavares, who was later sentenced to 36 years in jail in Brazil for the homicide.

Peter Blake turned an icon in New Zealand, the place crusing is an intermittent nationwide obsession. He was imposing with a bushy mustache, and although loads of Kiwi sailors gained extra regattas, he had a rumpled charisma and persistence. He lastly gained the Whitbread on his fifth try, sweeping all six legs through the 1989-90 version as skipper of Steinlager 2.

After managing an unsuccessful problem for the 1992 America’s Cup, he was the syndicate head in 1995 when Team New Zealand gained yachting’s most prestigious trophy for the primary time. He performed the identical function off the water once more in 2000 when the crew efficiently defended the Cup at dwelling in Auckland.

During these campaigns, his fortunate purple socks turned a nationwide image (and fund-raising car), worn by Prime Minister Jim Bolger and different New Zealanders in honor of a small nation’s potential to punch above its weight.

James’ older sister, Sarah-Jane, is an artist who’s married to Alistair Moore, one in every of Peter Blake’s former crew members on Seamaster. James and Sarah-Jane grew up crusing with their father and British mom, Pippa, on household cruises in locations like New Zealand’s Bay of Islands and Scotland’s west coast.

He holds twin British-New Zealand citizenship however was raised and educated primarily within the United Kingdom, the place he stays based mostly when he’s not being buffeted by winds and doused by seawater with a digicam or drone management in hand.

“These boats are very, very wet,” James stated. “Sometimes it just feels like you are underwater.”

Blake may not be an offshore racer, however he shares his father’s adventurous streak. In 2012 he rowed from Australia to New Zealand with three companions, dropping about 40 kilos through the 51 days it took to finish the crossing. He and a buddy are trying to develop a foiling kite boat to make a trans-Atlantic crossing.


Peter Blake on the 1990 Whitbread Round the World race, which might change into the Volvo Ocean Race.

Simon Bruty/Allsport, by way of Getty Images

A cameraman by commerce, he has centered, till now, on wildlife and historic documentaries, together with work on the British polar explorer Ernest Shackleton.

“I’ve never really covered sport before,” Blake stated. “Lots of sharks and whales, but this popped up, and it’s a bit of a challenge really. I like filming expeditions and people going through a bit of hardship, so for me this has been a chance to look into that basically, and it’s also been quite nice from a personal point of view seeing what Dad went through.”

He was inspired to use for the Volvo OBR function by Leon Sefton, head of tv and video for the race. Sefton is the son of Alan Sefton, a former journalist who turned Peter Blake’s biographer and aide-de-camp.

The household connection absolutely didn’t damage in making the ultimate lower among the many 140 candidates who made it via the preliminary vetting course of.

“The Blake family is always an important part of this race, but James got here on his merits as a cameraman,” Carlin stated. “It’s just an added bonus that he happens to be Sir Peter Blake’s son.”

The OBRs rotate from crew to crew on this version, and Blake has sailed with three completely different groups through the first eight legs of this race.

Volvo Ocean Race: Third leg from Cape Town to Melbourne, Australia. Video by James Blake from Team AkzoNobel

He was aboard Dutch entrant Team AkzoNobel for the third leg from Cape Town to Melbourne, Australia, when the boat’s mast monitor broke in December amid 50-knot squalls.

“We’re in the middle of absolutely nowhere and you see this dip in how everyone is feeling, like we’re screwed basically,” Blake stated. “And I’d say within five minutes everyone was back up and running. There was a game plan, the humor was back and everyone got on with it, so that will really stick with me.”

But the spotlight to this point for Blake was rounding the Horn: documenting the massive seas and seeing the albatrosses his father spoke about so usually.

“You see these birds that put no apparent effort into being down there, and we’re 10 men and women in a boat struggling just to stay afloat,” Blake stated. “And you see them flying around up there, and you wonder what they’re thinking of you. It’s quite amusing.”

Blake and the remainder of the crew did handle to remain afloat, and once they arrived in Itajai, Brazil, in March they made their method to a restaurant to have fun the return to terra firma.

“It was a nice meal out,” Blake stated. “And everyone was putting their elbows on the table.”

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