Cobham Brings Volvo Ocean Race to Land

Cobham’s SAILOR 500 FleetBroadband can transmit live HD pictures from the boats during unfavorable weather conditions.
ALICANTE, SPAIN —The Volvo Ocean Race is the most extreme offshore race on the planet. When the race was first run in the 1970s, filming was the only way to provide on-board coverage, but that meant waiting until the film could be processed and distributed, long after events took place.

Today, each Volvo Ocean 65 racing yacht integrates the most sophisticated communication equipment available. This enables Race Control Headquarters in Alicante, Spain, to track and analyze the fleet’s position and sailing conditions anywhere in the world. It also enables each team’s onboard reporter to produce content for multiplatform consumption.

Cobham hardware is an integral part of that on-board technology, helping to keep the sailors safe and connected to shore, and the public at the heart of the action.


Each boat has two satellite domes, a Cobham SAILOR 250 FleetBroadband and SAILOR 500 FleetBroadband, as well as Cobham’s Explorer 710 Class 1 BGAN terminal, all of which use Inmarsat’s flagship maritime service.

The 250 sends a data package from each vessel to Race Control every 10 seconds, which tells us exactly where the boat is, how fast it’s going and what the conditions are. The 250 also provides email, downloads weather and transfers media files when conditions are favorable.

If conditions aren’t favorable, we switch to the larger FleetBroadband 500, which we use to transmit live HD pictures. We also use it for live calls, which until recently would have been all but impossible.

One of our biggest challenges this year was getting live footage from Cape Horn, one of the most extreme and remote places on earth. Despite harsh conditions, the Cobham Explorer 710 units provided more than 1 Mbps upload speeds, which enabled us to stream pictures to Alicante and create an action-packed live show. When you consider where the uploads originated—the fierce conditions of the Southern Ocean—you begin to understand what an amazing achievement that is.


We rely very heavily on the electronic systems, including the Cobham 6217 VHF radio, which the sailors use to communicate with other boats. This was especially important when Team Vestas got stranded in the Indian Ocean during the Cape Town to Abu Dhabi leg. Team Alvimedica was able to communicate with them from a long distance and reassure them that help was coming, and to assist local authorities who were also working for their safe recovery.

Cobham Solo H.264 transmitters provide live HD video for media compounds at race villages in each port of call, which are also equipped with Cobham PRORX receiver systems and IP Mesh networks. Content from chase boats and helicopters is sent to the production center for editing and distribution across multiple platforms for live, close-up HD views of offshore action and port activities.

Our partnership with Cobham has been a genuine game changer, not only in how we planned and approached the technical communications necessary for the race, but in how we can truly engage our audience.

For more information, contact Cobham at 703-414-5300, or