I kicked off my second freelance career in 2005 as a watch helmsman aboard a 1939 yawl in the Rolex Transatlantic. As I had a white-knuckled grip each night on the brightly varnished wheel I thought, “This is a heck of a way to earn a living.” Five years later I had the same sensation last month in Key West as I filled in for Larry Ellison and tried to keep the hair-trigger helm of a carbon fibre RC 44 steady and in the groove. This was the Owner-Driver for a Week experience, in the shoes of a wealthy yachtsman and what it’s like on and off the water.

Museler stepping in for Larry Ellison

I believe journalism should put people in fantastic places that they would never have the opportunity to experience. Writing should be well proportioned for the reader and give those gut feelings or sublime sensations a participant would enjoy. Fortunately, writing for Sail magazine last month, we also had the benefit of daily blogging and video reports to compliment the eventual feature that will lend a more overall insight to the story in April.

I did get the call for this assignment on a Friday night and was on a plane less than 24-hours later. I ended up on a sunny dock in Key West from snowy Rhode Island, staring at a foreign carbon needle with a large Tarpon guarding the keel. To top it off, the amazing crew of Volvo Ocean Race, Olympic and America’s Cup veterans was lead by Russell Coutts (we were sailing his personal boat, Deal Breaker), the mastermind behind the class. RC 44s have amateur owner-drivers who buy into the class that provides everything from crews, logistics, boat setup, parties and accommodations for around $650,000 a year. This is actually a relatively inexpensive operating cost for six events around the world.

The Owner-Driver experience was a challenge to say the least. I have done several of these where you have to be on your game during the day as a sailor, then switch hats and interview your competitors and others afterwards. I write while everyone else winds down and continues nights of rum drinks and all-female mechanical bull riding. Russell was amazing, very understanding of my plight, and proved that his good sense of humor, positive thinking and tremendous amount of talent is what makes him one of the great sailors of our sport.

Please see what Sail is doing to enhance their features. Photographers including Leighton O’Conner, whose video is here, are also trying to tell the story. He just received funding to help with an IMAX 3D movie for the next Volvo Ocean Race.

Articles are more than just the printed story. And even though no one, in my opinion, has nailed this in any sports or event coverage, there are big steps being made putting the reader/viewer in the hot seat during a major sporting event. The online-only news agencies are doing this best in sailing, like Sailing Anarchy‘s viral coverage and behind the scenes insight we all want and SailingScuttlebutt‘s collection of prolific expert insight and news. The best I’ve seen so far is Current.com and soon we will see the America’s Cup starting to catch up…we hope!

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