Wind over tide | August 2021
After a year of Covid restrictions, I was ready to get back in the saddle and give my all to this International Yacht Race.
This took me to the shores of the Isle of White in the U.K. for the bi-annual Rolex Fastnet Race 2021. This is an offshore event with a course distance just short of 700 nautical miles. The yachts start from the Solent then sail across the southern part of England and onto the south of Ireland. Their goal is to round the iconic Fastnet Rock and race to the finish line in Cherbourg, France.
This stretch of sea can be treacherous and how well one handles the gruelling conditions is often the defining ingredient of winning the race. This year the start was particularly brutal because the wind and tide were travelling in opposite directions. This created 4 metres waves and an immensely confused sea state both for the sailors and for me photographically. Maneuvering our rib into position against the pounding waves without getting in the way of the 300 yachts fighting for a good start position, proved very challenging. Working closely with my rib driver is crucial in such demanding conditions, so with adrenaline pumping on max, I put my heart and soul into capturing moments that will hopefully define the essence of what it feels like to be on the yacht race.
This is when the work that the boat driver and I do before the race pays off. A meticulous amount of thought and planning goes into this assignment before the start, as we discuss the race course and where I would like to be positioned to capture the shots I hope to achieve. Working as a team we both know when to shift into a higher gear and this mutual understanding allows me the confidence to shoot freely and capture the shots when the moment presents itself.
Once the start is over and the boats are on their way out of the Solent I rush ashore to the closest airport, fly to Ireland, take a taxi to the southernmost point and jump into another chase-boat to make it to the Fastnet Rock (Ireland) in time to capture the first yacht rounding the Rock.
Here I sit in a boat from 5am till dark for 3 days, bobbing up and down in a huge swell, waiting patiently to capture the front leaders of the race.
Rounding the Fastnet Rock is the highlight of the race for all the sailors, as they take in the huge achievement of reaching this iconic landmark. As the trimarans approach first, followed by the maxi yachts and the rest of the fleet, it’s time to get back into action. Adrenaline is back on full tilt, communicating with my rib driver knowing we only have a small window of opportunity to capture these majestic yachts as they power around the Fastnet Rock. It’s in these fleeting moments that I hope to capture the iconic shots that ultimately define this race.
For this event I explored the new Nikon ‘Z’ mirrorless system which I feel has taken the camera quality to a new level. This system allows you to see the exposure as it is through the viewfinder, helping you capture what you see. It is faster in terms of capturing images and superior in image quality and I look forward to transitioning to this new technology.