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A Fresh Start

by Betsy Senescu January 15, 2024

You know Sharon Green’s ideal is ‘fresh to frightening’ – but this January we’re skipping the ‘frightening’ part and focusing on the ‘fresh!’ Is there anything more fresh and inviting than the crystalline waters of Biscayne Bay to encourage you to plunge into the New Year?

The January images in the new 2024 Ultimate Sailing Calendar are from our friend and colleague Stephen Cloutier, who is by no means a stranger to Ultimate Sailing. Steve has been part of our team photographing the Transpac finishes the last few years, and his tireless energy and talent are exemplary!

Steve captured these photos during the M32 Winter Series in Miami. “The M32 class, for me, is one of the most exciting classes to photograph,” said Steve. The M32s are identical lightweight, all-carbon, high-performance multihulls designed to be thrilling to sail and easy to ship from venue to venue. “The speed of the boats, raced by some of the best sailors in the world, and the venues they race in – they’re all amazing!” Those venues include Italy’s Lake Garda, Sweden, Narragansett Bay off Newport, RI, and Biscayne Bay, where these images were taken.

“On the day pictured we had typical Miami champagne sailing conditions. ‘Sunny skies, a warm 12 to 14 knots of breeze along with beautiful blue-green water. It doesn’t get much better than that!”

“I captured the main image with my Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 drone just off the start as the fleet was accelerating and coming together, approaching the first reaching mark. I started along the side of the course, shooting down the start line. This angle – flying in front of the fleet and just below the tops of the masts – along with that beautiful Miami water, creates a dramatic look and feel as the teams convene to make the turn.”

 

In this sunny three-day event, Rated X (at bottom) edged out Extreme2 by one point after 14 races and went on to win the world championship title at year’s end. But it sure looks like Steve was about to get sliced and diced, getting the shot!

“This is one of my favorite angles to shoot: looking straight down the front of the boat. I had asked my driver, Dave Doucet, to position us directly ahead so we could clearly see the faces of the sailors. It might look like we’re about to be run down, but it’s a safe distance away using the 100-500mm lens.”

His go-to setup for on-the-water photography is the Canon EOS R5 mirrorless camera paired with the Canon RF 100-500mm lens, plus the Canon 5D Mark IV with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. Steve explained, “The 100-500mm lens gives me the ability to reach into the action onboard, and capture a close look at the sailors working during the race. Meanwhile my 5D Mark IV with the 24-70mm lens is great for slow shutter speed images, showing the water in motion and capturing wide shots of the fleet.”

Steve’s fascination with photography started long ago. “My interest comes from my father, who worked for Eastman Kodak in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He would let me use his Kodak Retina Reflex SLR camera loaded with his favorite film, Kodachrome 64. I loved the process of creating images and the anticipation of waiting for the developed film to arrive, then loading up the slide projector carousel and seeing the photos on the big screen.”

It was shortly after that when his love of sports and photography collided. “I was so intrigued going to baseball, hockey and football games with my father, seeing the photographers on the sidelines and then following their images in the papers and magazines. I was fascinated with how they were able to capture exciting moments from the games that we don’t see on TV or even from the stands.” 

That’s what motivated him to become a professional photographer. “I love being close to the action, in the front row at games, and being in a position to capture this amazing action close-up. Having the images published for everyone to see is still a thrill!”

Ironically, Steve’s alter-ego is a ski racing photographer! “Skiing is a life-long passion. I prefer to be on a snow-covered mountain than on a photo boat with warm water and sun,” he admitted. “Everyone says I’m crazy!”

 

He noted that ski and yacht racing both provide equally challenging ‘office’ environments. “Whether I’m out on the water or on a ski racecourse, the elements of wind, rain, snow, hot and cold temps can be extreme at times. Working a ski race is similar in that you need to predict where you might see the most action. On a photo boat, positioning yourself in a spot where you can capture the best action shots is a challenge. Likewise, not every ski racer speeds by a gate the same way. The main difference is that on the water the chase boat or drone can move around freely, to find the right angle of the sun and where I might see the best lineup for a shot. With ski racing I’m locked into one position for the entire race.”

We’re thrilled to have Steve’s exquisite photos kick off the 2024 Ultimate Sailing Calendar, and his unique perspective on capturing this breadth of images!

“It’s exciting and an honor to be featured in Sharon’s Ultimate Sailing calendars,” Steve declared. “Each year the calendar features some of the best images by the greatest photographers from around the globe, and being included with this talented group is pretty special!”

 

 




Betsy Senescu
Betsy Senescu

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