Whitbread/Volvo Ocean Race has launched of a ground-breaking web site aimed at taking visitors closer to the heart of the action in the next edition of the Race - due to start in October. The Race Data Centre’s unique features include predicted positions based on weather routing, a form guide that builds performance tables for the boats as the race progresses and historical data graphing.
The Whitbread/Volvo Ocean Race, so often at the forefront of online innovation, has pushed the boundaries still further for the 2008-09 race with the launch of a ground-breaking web site aimed at taking visitors closer to the heart of the action.
The Whitbread Round the World Race of 1997-98 pioneered the use of the internet for global communications and was considered the benchmark of its time. Its ‘total immersion’ strap line is a guiding philosophy that echoes to this day, as that site changed not only the way the story of ocean racing was told but also set the tone for how future global sports were covered online.
From that proud heritage of cutting-edge communication, comes the re-launched www.volvooceanrace.org
Developed in partnership with digital agency twentysix London, the new site boasts a number of design features and improved navigation which will enhance user interface and usability. The site is filled with all of the news and feature stories one would expect from a major sailing event website. But among the biggest advances with the new site is the Race Data Centre. Here, for the first time, the race organisers will share insider information from the fleet’s on-board telemetry.
During racing, the Race Data Centre’s unique features include predicted positions based on weather routing, a form guide that builds performance tables for the boats as the race progresses and historical data graphing.
Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad has been the driving force behind the Data Centre in conjunction with author and professional navigator Mark Chisnell, who will provide tactical analysis and commentary throughout the race.
'I was keen for the web audience to experience the race as the sailors do – at least as much as possible. With that in mind, we’ve shifted the focus more towards ‘what happens next’, with predicted positions, and on tactics, as well as developing an understanding of which boat is faster. The Race Data Centre is a big step towards that,' Frostad said.
'This has never been done before. We are creating an online environment where users can immerse themselves in data and put themselves in the place of the skippers and navigators as they take in all the available information and decide what to do next. Hopefully, it’s a window into the mental side of the race as well.' The race data will also be used to drive Virtual Spectator, the 2D and 3D animated race tracker, which will enable users to follow the progress of the fleet along with the predicted positions. Virtual Spectator will run inside a web browser, meaning it is available for both Mac and PC users.
Other innovations include a fully interactive 3D tour of a Volvo Open 70 that shows in graphic detail the inner workings of the boat as well as the key design features of these groundbreaking yachts.
Upgraded image and audio galleries including regular podcasts and live on-board interviews round out the package.
Volvo Ocean Race TV (www.volvooceanrace.tv
), launched earlier this year, will show video content including news, features, on-board footage and interviews when the boats are at sea. Volvo Ocean Race TV will also show live coverage of all in-port races.
Fans will also be able to follow events on the race’s mobile channel so there’s no excuse for ever leaving the race.
'Having done the race myself I felt that there were a lot more stories we should be telling about life on board via our web site,' said Frostad. 'As a race organisation we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to content generated by the race particularly the material which comes directly off the boats – from the front line.
'And now, with the Media Crew Member on board, our ‘embedded reporters’, we now have the ability to play to our strengths in capturing every ounce of the action, the sheer speed of the Volvo Open 70s, as well as the emotional highs and lows endured by the guys on board.'
'It is how we package that material that matters most both for avid followers of the race and those who are new to it. With that in mind, the new site will serve both audiences.'
The official website will be available in four languages, reflecting the diversity of the new race course along with the eight teams. The Spanish version of the website will launch later this week, with Chinese and Russian editions to follow in turn. The Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 will be the 10th running of this ocean marathon. Starting from Alicante in Spain, on 4 October 2008 with in-port racing, it will, for the first time, take in Cochin, India, Singapore and Qingdao, China before finishing in St Petersburg, Russia for the first time in the history of the race. Spanning some 37,000 nautical miles, stopping at 11 ports and taking nine months to complete, the Volvo Ocean Race is the world’s premier yacht race for professional racing crews.