Onboard cameramen planned for 2017 regatta in San Francisco

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SAN DIEGO (AP) Sports producer and avid sailor Geoff Mason plans to use onboard cameramen as part of the coverage of the Super 12 Cup regatta on San Francisco Bay beginning in July 2017.

Onboard reporters have sailed in the last three editions of the grueling Volvo Ocean Race. But it's believed onboard cameramen for the Super 12 Cup would be a first for a major race around buoys.

''That is what is going to define our coverage and set us apart from any other regatta. That's the most exciting element of this whole adventure,'' Mason said by phone.

The race also will feature a new, modernized version of the venerable 12-meter class.

Mason said he's not the first producer who thought about putting cameramen on boats. He wanted to do it in past America's Cups but couldn't get organizers to agree to it.

Former America's Cup executive Tom Ehman announced the annual Super 12 Cup, also known as the San Francisco Yacht Racing Challenge, in May.

''I thought, `Oh, my God, this is perfect for onboard cameramen,''' said Mason, who will head the television coverage and global distribution for the regatta. ''We'll just make it part of the rule. It's an ideal situation - the boats, the wind and the access control.''

Remote-controlled cameras have been used on boats in many regattas for years. Mason said as important as it will be for an onboard cameraman to get tight shots of faces, hands and even feet, he also wants mics on key crew members.

''We are going to see the heat of the battle and we are going to feel the heat of the battle via the onboard microphones. That makes the pictures even more meaningful and dramatic,'' said Mason, a 25-time Emmy Award winner who sailed on Nefertiti during the 1962 America's Cup defense trials. ''The camera allows you to see the event. Microphones allow you to feel the event.''

A cameraman will have to fit in among the 12-member crew and not interfere with their functions.

''It will be close quarters, but that will make it even more exciting to watch,'' Mason said.

Britt Ward of Farr Yacht Design in Annapolis, Maryland, said his group is allowing for an onboard cameraman as it designs the Super 12. The boats will be built of composite materials to make them lighter than the aluminum 12 meters.

The boats could be smaller and cheaper, but Ward, the lead designer of the Super 12s, said he understands the importance of onboard cameramen.

''I think it's great for accessibility,'' Ward said. ''A person on board can get camera shots no one else can. It's a challenge, but we're up for it.''

Andy Rose of Newport Beach, Calif., a veteran of the 12-meter era of the America's Cup, plans to be an adviser for a Super 12 campaign to be headed by a friend he declined to identify. Rose said it wasn't Ehman's original intention to use onboard cameramen. But with the lively conditions and spectacular backdrop of San Francisco Bay, it makes sense.

''The logistics may prove an issue but I don't see anything wrong with it,'' said Rose, who as tactician of Australia in 1977 became the first American to sail with a foreign team in the America's Cup. ''Given he's got Geoff Mason, this could end up being truly spectacular yachting photography.''

Mason was executive producer of ESPN's coverage of the 1987 America's Cup in Fremantle, Australia.

''I was down there, and vividly remember coming back and talking to some non-sailing friends who said, `Wow, that's what you do?' '' Rose said. ''I had no idea, but after watching the ESPN coverage, they were great visuals. Given he's got Geoff Mason, this could end up being truly spectacular yachting photography.''

Rose expects to be an adviser for a Super 12 campaign to be headed by a friend he declined to identify. Entries for the Super 12 Cup open Thursday.

Mason said he's already seeking potential cameramen-sailors.

''In some cases we have good cameramen we can familiarize with sailing; in other cases, we can take really good sailors, like bowmen who are agile and knowledgeable, and turn them into good cameramen. We'll have a combination of both.''

Ward said the Super 12s could sail a minute a mile faster than the old 12 meters. He said target speeds would be nine knots upwind in 20 knots true wind and 12 knots downwind. They would be 8.5 knots upwind and 9.5 knots downwind in 12 knots.


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