By Austin Wong
”As a special Christmas gift we’ve gone deep into our archives and dug up an exclusive first – a brand new digitally restored version of the official film for the inaugural 1973-74 Whitbread Round the World Race.
It’s not often you get to hold history in your hands, but that was the recent experience of Volvo Ocean Race’s Rick Deppe when he went deep into the archives in search of lost treasures.
It all started in a trip to our video archive facility in London where Rick was tasked with assessing the mountain of video and film material amassed in 40 years of the race. However what started as a chore took on a different complexion when Rick stumbled across some old film canisters thought to be lost to the ages. We asked Rick to describe how he made the finding.
The race has an enormous archive, some of it is well organised and some of it not so much. These films were very much at the not so organised end of the spectrum and I found them underneath some boxes.
Being able to restore them and digitise them into HD is really exciting. Where we keep the tapes is just storage so I had to make arrangements with a specialist film lab in London to make the first viewing.”
Given that film naturally degrades and decays, transfer into a high-resolution digital form is one of the best ways of ensuring that material isn’t lost forever. However to create a digital version of the highest quality, a restoration process is also necessary where the film is cleaned and prepared, and some of the imperfections removed using computer processes.
The official film from the first Whitbread had previously only been available in low resolution, and in an inferior quality transfer from the original film reels. Now for the first time we’re able to share the 40-year-old images in high definition.
In that first race, 17 race yachts set out for a circumnavigation, carrying 167 crew from seven different nations. The adventure left Portsmouth stopping just three times – in Cape Town, Sydney, and Rio de Janeiro – before heading back to the UK.
With an ethos of enthusiastic amateurs rather than today’s hardened professionals, three men were lost in that inaugural edition. Watching the newly restored version of the film brings home just how far we’ve come since those pioneering days.
It was a great experience. When you’re spooling up the film on the machine there’s a lot of anticipation, and then seeing the film leaders and all the scratches is very evocative. Seeing things in HD is much closer to the way people saw the events back in 1973 which is great. I love the way people talk in that era and also the fashion!
I hope that seeing these films will be a great experience for our fans. The essential nature of the race and the sailors is always there. We do have more films, but the restoration process is expensive, so we’ll need to gauge the reaction to this one. I do have my eye on some canisters from Flyer in 81-82 though…”