A whirlybird's-eye view of ocean race

Viewfinder

May 14, 2006|By JERRY JACKSON | JERRY JACKSON,SUN REPORTER

With most sports, the best photos are taken at the edge of the field, near the action. But I discovered that when the field is a mile wide, the best seat is way up in the nosebleed section - in a helicopter.

When I was asked to cover the restart of the Volvo Ocean Race from the air a couple of weeks ago, I quickly said yes. But inside, my stomach was churning. My last aerial assignment, photographing waterfowl from a seaplane, left me dizzy for a week.

My apprehension was replaced with a big grin when our tiny, two-seat Robinson helicopter popped across the Severn River and hovered alongside thousands of people hiking across the Bay Bridge. We made an eye-level pass by the hikers and headed down to Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse for the start of the race.

Soon after the start, five of the 70-foot boats veered toward the Eastern Shore, scattering spectator boats. Another circling pilot squawked over the radio that the sailboats were avoiding the tidal current in the center channel. His theory was confirmed when the two boats that lingered in the channel quickly lost ground.

We chased and circled the lead boats, sometimes dipping low enough to worry about the masts of some of the spectator boats. Forty-five minutes went by too quickly and, running low on fuel, we had to call it a day. But what a day.

To view a portfolio of photos from the restart of the Volvo Ocean Race, go to www.baltimoresun.com/viewfinder.

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