One of the criticisms levelled at the coverage of 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean race (VOR) was that the content from the boats was so carefully laundered, starched, and ironed that is was just plain boring.

In an attempt to deliver more unlaundered content for this race, VOR organisers changed the rules to allow the on board reporters (OBRs) to post images and video content directly from the boats, they call this RAW content. But just how raw this content should be is still a matter to be determined and the flagging of content for HQ review has yet to be fine-tuned.

 

During the first leg of the race from Alicante to Lisbon, Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag posted a mildly amusing ‘Steve Hayles Breakfast Show video’ filmed while navigator Hayles was helming, playing the straight man, to Chief Wag, skipper David Witt – broadly seen as a joker in the VOR skipper pack.

During the second leg from Lisbon to Cape Town they again produced a segment, edited, and posted to the Scallywag and Volvo Ocean race site, by the VOR employed OBR, but this time it was a little more RAW.

39-year Dutch sailor Annemieke Bes, the only female sailor on Scallywag at the time appeared on the show as a bearded ‘Doctor Cloggs’, who was asked by the stand-up comedian Witt for medical advice in treating the navigator’s ‘scrotum rash’.

This video caused a stir on Facebook, with divided opinions on whether it was workplace sexual harassment or just tasteless boat banter. That Witt had previously loudly rejected the option of having female crew on the boat saying he would not take part in a ‘social experiment’, didn’t help his case and some sailors voiced their complaints.

The video was later deleted from the Scallywag and Volvo Ocean race website and race media feeds, so it appears there were some doubts at management level also.

After a third-party complaint about the video was made to World Sailing, a World Sailing-appointed Event Disciplinary Investigating
Officer (EDIO) forwarded the case to the International Jury under Rule 69 of the Racing Rules of Sailing, naming both Witt and Hayles. Hayles resigned from the boat before the Cape Town hearing.

The International Jury dismissed the protest saying, “David Witt and Steve Hayles did not commit misconduct because the video has not caused widespread offence worldwide and has not brought the sport into disrepute.”

Rob Kothe posed some questions for Bes, a three times Olympian, with two Fastnets and two Sydney Hobarts under her belt, as she was sailing north towards Hong Kong.

In her words: “I’ve done a shit-load of offshore sailing in mixed fleets. The Breakfast Show video didn’t cause me any discomfort. I thought the actors were not that good and it was more like a boat joke and some people really loved it and some people didn’t like it. Volvo is pushing for more footage from the boat and this is what went online.

“I watched it again in Cape Town and still I don’t see any issue about it. Some people do, and I think we must respect them of course but it is surprising me that people from outside can initiate a Rule 69 protest.

“What actually offended me was the suggestion that went out that I was sexually harassed. They never checked with me if that is true.

“It really was a tremendous distraction for our team and everyone shoreside who was involved with our team, you have to take a Rule 69 hearing seriously as it really puts at risk what has already been achieved. All the people we spoke to in Cape Town were behind us. Common sense prevailed, and the Rule 69 protest was dismissed.

But let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture says Bes. Pointing out this is the first VOR race where every boat has mixed crews. “In the Volvo fleet, all the boats now have mixed teams, we were training like that for months and we’ve been racing like that now for months with all the girls and all the boys putting in their effort, they have diverse skill sets that deliver the overall performance.

“I am really pleased and very proud to see more women in offshore sailing. The skill level is going up quickly now in this Volvo Ocean Race, especially in the girls from SCA. Their last race entry has put them on the fast-forward track.

“Ideally in the future, questions about women will not be asked, because it won’t be interesting anymore because it is too normal to have girls in a mixed team at the top level of our sport.”

 

Published on YachtsandYachting.co.uk  in January 2018

Latest Articles