photo – Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race
THE MAN – AMORY ROSS
What he does
Onboard Reporter for Team Alvimedica.
Who he is
An American sailing photographer turned expert Onboard Reporter. This is Amory’s second race as an OBR and his photographic eye is like no other.
Where is home
“I am never exactly sure. My car and most of my possessions [er, toys] are still in San Francisco, my parents live in Newport, I dream of being back in Jackson, Wyoming, where I lived for many winters as a ski instructor, but the last place I really called home and lived year-round for more than just a few years was where we grew up in northern New Jersey. This boat is as much of a home as any, I guess!”
Why this job
“I don’t think there is any better job in the world for me. I’m a passionate sailor and I love sharing this sport – particularly its extremes. To be onboard living the adventure… it is an impossible invitation to decline and I’m never happier than when I’m at sea doing what I’m best at.
“There is nothing else like it. It prepares you for anything and everything, outside and in the storm, literally. It’s an exhausting, stressful, full-time, nomadic existence but I’m exactly where I want to be.”
How he got it
“I began my professional life as a sailing photographer, before the Onboard Reporter role existed, but I was doing quite a bit of sailing at the time, too. When the position was added for the 2008-09 race I knew it was for me but I had no storytelling background or video skills so I set my sights on the 2011-12 edition and “went to school.”
“I did everything I could to improve my portfolio of work while trying to make it as diverse as possible. I practiced video, worked on my writing, I moved to Wyoming to learn from the ski industry, and I devoted myself to pursuing the job. I was fortunate to earn a ride for the 2011-12 race with PUMA and it was an amazing experience with an incredible team and a creative sponsor.”
Why he wanted to come back
“I wasn’t sure at first if I was interested in coming back for a second race. It takes a heavy toll, physically and mentally, and it’s a massive commitment to make. I also wasn’t sure that re-telling the story was feasible; 150 days of consecutive creativity might be tough when there is a familiarity to it. I worried about the ‘been there done that’ feeling.
“But I began to miss the people, being part of a team, and probably most importantly – the challenge. I found myself yearning to be back on the boat, finding my limits and setting new ones.
“The sense of reward and personal accomplishment I get from this job is one I’ve never felt anywhere else. And I wanted a second lap to improve on the first. I want to be better. I want to appreciate all the things I missed the first time. I want to remember it all.”
Best moment in this race so far
“Rounding Cape Horn in the lead. The Southern Ocean tests everyone equally, Onboard Reporters just as much as sailors, and the working conditions are borderline impossible for you and your gear. It is a feat in itself, to tell a story from down there.
“While I am technically not one of the sailors we are nine onboard and everyone is in this together; getting to Cape Horn first was a total team effort and I very much shared their feelings of accomplishment. It was an amazing day for us all. It is always fun and easy to tell these stories, when everyone is so happy. So Alive.”
And the worst
“The South China Sea. I almost never get sick but the South China Sea was the exception. We spend a lot of time at the computer, typing, editing, transferring, or looking through a tiny viewfinder at a moving subject, and the violent upwind sailing got to me pretty good. There is nothing more miserable than throwing up at work. That really sucked.”
His favorite photo so far
“There are too many to choose from by now. Any that convey my love for sailing, that scream crossing the open ocean really, really quickly. My favorite shot is the one that makes someone with no appreciation for sailing stop and say—Wow. And that picture is different for everyone.
“But I really love to play with lighting: backlight, low-light, high contrast, or super saturated, and to capture movement. For a slow sport there is always something moving out here.”
“Favorite book, The Grapes of Wrath. One of the few classics I can still remember well. Steinbeck’s writing style… I mean you can literally taste the Depression-era dust on the farm. So descriptive and visual.
“Probably Michael Lewis. I first read The New New Thing about Jim Clark and Silicon Valley in high school and I haven’t missed one of his books since. I studied the economics of sports in college and I’m drawn to his sport-centric efforts, like Moneyball and The Blindside, numerical reasoning of games we tend to follow with our hearts.
“Or, Jon Krakauer. I live vicariously through his tales of adventure and can never put his books down. A true investigative storyteller. He has a way of objectively capturing a story and unraveling its many layers.”
“Field of Dreams. I still get goosebumps from the scenes at Fenway. It’s an amazing story about the meaning of sports, family, and following your intuition. Build it and they will come, Roy.”
“Ansel Adams. Cliché, perhaps, but his composition is impeccable and his thorough documenting of America’s vast landscape in a time when getting around wasn’t exactly easy always leaves me in awe. He was as much an explorer of the West as we are of the Oceans.”
“Return of the Mack by Mark Morrison. I’m eternally stuck in the 90s.”
The moment of the day he loves most
“When I feel I’ve done something worthy of this unbelievable opportunity! Never waste a second.”