Please select your home edition
Edition
Doyle Sails 2020 - Built for Adventure 728x90 TOP

How do they do that?

by Louay Habib 7 Mar 2018 06:33 PST
Volvo Ocean Race via Satellite schematic © Cobham SATCOM

For five editions of the Volvo Ocean Race, Louay Habib has been the travelling reporter for Cobham SATCOM the official Satellite & Radio Communications Equipment Sponsor. With its relationship with the Volvo Ocean Race stretching back to 2001, all of the satellite and radio communication systems on board the Volvo Ocean 65s, and used by the race management team, are provided by Cobham.

You can not help but admire the stunning media produced by the On Board Reporters (OBR) during the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race, capturing the imagination of millions of race fans. Understanding how the media gets off the boat and onto your phone, tablet or computer is often taken for granted. Since the first race in 1973, there has been a quantum leap in the design and speed of the boats, and that has been equally matched by the advancement in satellite communication systems.

The Volvo Ocean 65s are equipped with sophisticated communication systems. Allowing tracking of the fleet's position throughout the offshore legs, as well as instant communication with the crews through both video and audio channels. We are talking about tens of gigabytes of data coming off the boats deep in the world's oceans. So how do they do that?

Data such as audio, pictures and video are converted by interfacing with a smart box called a BDU (Below Deck Unit), which is then converted into radio waves by the antenna inside the dome. Just as you tune into a FM radio station by selecting the right frequency, the antenna transmits the radio waves on the L-Band, which has a very long wavelength and as such is not badly affected by rain, or the torrents of water streaming down the deck of a VO65.

These radio waves are transmitted 36,000 km out into space to Inmarsat's BGAN Satellite network. The satellite acts as a mirror in Space, bouncing data from one side of the earth to another, and onto a ground station, which then connects to the Volvo Ocean Race HQ in Alicante. The media team then use the world wide web to transmit the data to your communication device.

The theory of satellite communication, is fairly simple. However in practice, maritime satellite communication presents many additional problems. Land antennas are usually stationary, once it has locked onto the satellite then transmission is relatively straight forward, a VO65 hurtling through the ocean is far from stationary! The motion of the boat is through three plains. Pitch is the up/down rotation from port to starboard. Roll is the tilting rotation from bow to stern. Yaw is the rotation of the boat about its vertical axis. The Cobham SATCOM antennas on board the VO65, need to lock a signal with the satellite 36,000 km away in Space, and remain pointing at the satellite regardless of motion. The antennas need to deliver an incredible level of stabilisation through three axis.

Life at the Extreme is hard on man and machine, just take a look at one of the sailor's hands after three brutal weeks in the ocean – it is not a pretty sight. The satellite equipment doesn't enjoy a watch system, the domes are at the mercy of the elements 24-7. However, the hardware Cobham uses for the Volvo Ocean Race is standard, designed and built to operate in hurricane force winds, at 40 knots of boat speed, with an operational temperature range of -25 to +55°C.

For the 13th edition of the race, the company also supplies a wide range of safety equipment, built to be best in class. Each boat is extensively equipped with: Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB), Search and Rescue Transponders (SART), and hand held VHF radios along with aviation frequency emergency radios.

For more information about Cobham SATCOM visit www.cobham.com

Related Articles

The Ocean Race Europe 2025 will start from Kiel
Aim is to combine this event with the topic of ocean health and protection Organisers of The Ocean Race have confirmed Kiel.Sailing.City as the host of the start of The Ocean Race Europe during a press conference in Kiel on Wednesday morning. Posted on 14 Feb
The Ocean Race ends an epic 2023 on a high note
An incredible race year comes to a close An incredible race year comes to a close with the Notice of Race released for The Ocean Race Europe in 2025 and The Ocean Race 2026-27 along with comprehensive reports on the 2023 event... Posted on 21 Dec 2023
The Ocean Race wins the Sustainability Award
In the International Sports Awards 2023 The Ocean Race, the toughest and longest test of a team in sport, has taken the top prize in the Sustainability category of the 2023 International Sports Awards, hosted by the International Sports Convention. Posted on 7 Dec 2023
The Ocean Race takes action at COP28
Calling for a sea change at United Nations Climate Change Conference The Ocean Race is at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP28, to call for the ocean to be a key consideration in the vital climate negotiations and to highlight how sport and business can help to make a positive difference for the planet. Posted on 30 Nov 2023
The Ocean Race to collect rare data in Antarctica
The analysis of tiny microplastics (down to 30 microns) has never been done before in Antarctica The Ocean Race is driving an Antarctic science mission in which vital data about the health of the ocean will be gathered at the southern fringes of the planet, where information is extremely sparse. Posted on 28 Nov 2023
11th Hour Racing is World Sailing Team of the Year
The first American team to win The Ocean Race has been recognised Skipper Charlie Enright was on hand to pick up the Team of the Year prize at the World Sailing annual awards night held in Málaga, Spain on Tuesday evening. Posted on 15 Nov 2023
A Voyage of Discovery: The Ocean Race documentary
Viewers are taken behind the scenes and given 'all access' to live the drama of the toughest race A three-part documentary featuring a deep dive into the lives of the sailors and teams competing in The Ocean Race 2022-23 will be released on Friday 3rd November on Eurosport. Posted on 2 Nov 2023
Link up with Team Nexans - Art et Fenêtres (II)
The Ocean Race to support ocean science during the TJV The Ocean Race is supporting Team Nexans - Art et Fenêtres (II) in the collection of vital ocean data during the Transat Jacques Vabre (TJV), which sets sail this weekend from Le Havre, Normandy. Posted on 27 Oct 2023
Whitbread Round the World Race 93-94 Official Film
The first race to feature the new Whitbread 60 class By the 1993-94 edition, the Whitbread Round the World Race had already transformed from an adventure imbued with Corinthian spirit to a professional sport where food, bedding and clothing were being optimised for performance not comfort. Posted on 22 Oct 2023
The Ocean Race and Cabo Verde team up
Signing a Memorandum of Understanding to protect and restore ocean health Following a successful stopover and hosting of The Ocean Race Summit in January 2023, Cabo Verde and The Ocean Race will focus on protecting and promoting ocean health through sport and science... Posted on 20 Sep 2023
Cyclops Marine 2023 November - FOOTERHyde Sails 2022 One Design FOOTERSelden 2020 - FOOTER