america’s cup road kill

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america’s cup road kill

Photojournalist Jen Edney gives us her unique impressions after a season covering the AC World Series.  Learn more about Jen at the Edney Adventure site.

“Keep calm and carry on? No thanks! I’d rather raise hell and change the world.” This quote pretty much sums up my approach to my work. The feeling I get when an AC 45 flies by at speed with the windward hull and rudder just a few feet from my head is indescribable, and that adrenaline rush is what makes me love what I do. But I also thrive on the challenge of trying to tell a meaningful story and make a difference.

Someone said the other day that life begins at the end of your comfort zone and I thought to myself…well, in that case, I must have been re-born several times over the past few months. In May I found myself traveling to Europe for a few assignments, with the first stop in Venice to shoot the America’s Cup World Series. It was my first time shooting these wing-sailed catamarans, loaded with some of the best sailors in the world aboard. I came into the event totally green, never having seen these boats in action except on TV, and absolutely no expectations. My mind was wide open and I was ready to take it all in.

While in Venice, after a few days of shooting from the press boats and familiarizing myself with the AC racing format, I started to entertain the idea of shooting an AC45 from in the water. I wasn’t sure if it was even a possibility or if it was just too dangerous. I figured I’d just ask and see what the response was. I had several people raise their eyes at me when I asked, but I think it more had to do with what might be in the water then the dangers of being that close to an AC45.

Newport – Energy Team Road Kill

Newport is where things turned around for me. I was determined to try my luck with shooting an AC45 from the water so I set out to find a team and skipper who might be up for the task. After a bit of searching, Loick Peyron and Energy Team France answered the call. I walked into the Team Energy tent to pitch the idea to Loick. He stared at me, cigarette in mouth and nonchalantly said, “Sure! No Problem!!! We sail over you, beside you, whatever you want, no problem! How about today? Can you meet back here in 1 hour?” I said ok, walked out, stomach immediately in a knot and said to myself, “Oh Shit! They actually said yes!” I guess that’s what people mean when they say be careful what you wish for!

With my trusty red helmet, flippers and camera in hand, I went out to become Energy Team road kill. The chase boat dropped me in the water and my fate was about to be decided. The first time the boat sailed past I was on the windward side and thought, “hey, that wasn’t so bad.” The second time it was clear they were going to sail directly over me. My heart started pounding as the hull and rudder passed only a few feet away from me and the sounds of the boat passing overhead intensified to add to my adrenaline rush. I definitely closed my eyes for a few seconds but kept shooting. I was nervous but had total confidence in Loick and the crew. After a few more passes overhead I climbed back into the chase boat, heart still pounding with an exuberant grin on my face thinking to myself, “I love my job!”

To top off the day, I was asked if I wanted to ride aboard and take photos during the practice fleet race. It was my first time on board an AC45 and quite exciting to be on during a practice race. That experience really changed my perspective on the sport and increased my understanding immensely. It was there that I saw the true athleticism and raw intensity of the sport as I watched the guys sprint across the trampoline to grind up a halyard or douse the gennaker. That day was such a high spot in my sport coverage this year. Making the transition from being in the photo boat to being in the water with the AC 45’s and then to finally being on a boat in a practice race… It was my best day in the office yet!

My specialty has always been shooting from the water, which has earned me such titles as “Mermaid”, “Watergirl” and my personal favorite, “Shark Bait” over the years. But a new one was added to the list in Newport: “Ballsy water chick”. I was also fortunate during the week to be in the right place at the right time during some key moments, including Team New Zealand’s capsize. I was leaning over the edge of the windward mark boat with my water housing in the water, focusing on the water line on the lens and waiting for New Zealand to round the mark. As they started to come around I noticed something was wrong and looked up to see the wing almost on top of us. I managed to hold the camera steady in the water and continued shooting as they capsized right next to us. Never a dull moment on the water!

San Francisco – ACWS meets Fleet week

San Francisco gave me whole new perspective on the world of ACWS. I was working with Team JP Morgan BAR and my primary focus was on the guests that came out everyday as guest racers. I witnessed the event everyday from the eyes of someone just experiencing the thrill of America’s Cup racing firsthand for the first time. To some that repetition might sound like a real-life version of the movie “Groundhog Day”, but in reality it just makes the job more exciting for me. Shooting from a chase RIB already presents several challenges in trying to get the shots that you need but when you add in a few extra bodies to work around it can really make things interesting!

One of the more exciting days on the water was during the first event with Ben Ainslie and the BAR team when we nearly capsized during training. I was caught on the low side with nothing to stand on so found myself dangling with nothing to hold on to but the net. I somehow managed to keep my camera in hand…got to keep those priorities straight! The boat righted itself and the crew made sure that I was alright. The first event was described as a “whirlwind” by Ben having just come off the back of the Olympics and the team had limited training on the water together.

The second event was a great week for Ben Ainslie and Team JP Morgan BAR in San Francisco. They dominated the first day of fleet racing and continued that momentum the rest of the week. The team had an amazing final race making a comeback from last to 4th on Super Sunday and ended with a podium finish at the end of fleet racing. It was an exciting week with the Blue Angels flying overhead as the boats prepared for racing and hundreds of spectators out on the water to add to the excitement! San Francisco has certainly made an impression on me and I look forward to my next visit!

The best part of working the past 4 ACWS events has been the incredible opportunity to work alongside so many of the people that have inspired me the past few years. It’s incredible how much talent and camaraderie the ACWS event brings together within the sailing community, I was blessed to be a part of it. There are so many people I’ve met over the past few months I’d like to thank for their help, generosity, time and hospitality. THANK YOU!

What’s Next?

I’m looking forward to seeing the AC 72s ripping through the Bay next year and am excited about some new projects on the horizon. It’s a hectic lifestyle, always on the go, full of random encounters navigating me around the world but I guess that’s what it takes to raise hell and change the world! My bags are always packed and I am willing to shoot anything, anytime, anywhere!