Trading Hats: Sailor to Photographer

by Sharon Green October 31, 2018

This month’s dramatic Ultimate Sailing Calendar photos are from Sander van der Borch, whose photos have been featured in the calendar several times during the past 10 years. His unique style really comes through in this bold image of GC32 foiling catamarans, silhouetted by a menacing sky.

Describing how he got this November showcase shot, Sander said racing had been postponed, but finally the boats went out, late in the day. “I like shooting with backlight, and stopped it down one or two F-stops to expose for the brighter areas of the scene,” he explained.

“I like to stay out the whole duration of the regatta, as you never know what might happen,” he added. “On very dull, windless days I might come in early to get a head start on the editing, but I am always afraid of missing out!”
And the GC32s usually deliver a lot of excitement. Venues on the GC32 circuit are chosen to deliver optimal conditions for foiling. And when they do, they reach speeds of 30 to 40 knots! 

You have to know what angles they might sail, and how they behave in the puffs, Sander explained. “At the bottom (leeward) mark you need to be careful, as you never know if they might not round, and keep sailing, if they have a problem. So it’s important to be in sight of the helmsman of the foiling boat, so they can avoid you. Never be in his blind spot.”

Sander’s keen knowledge of yacht racing helps him navigate these tricky race courses. A sailor since childhood, he enjoyed family holidays on the North Sea and English Channel. A big boost to his sailing ‘career’ was being invited, at the age of 20, to race in the Admirals Cup on the famous Mumm 36 Mean Machine. He raced in three Admiral’s Cups – on the winning team in 1999 – and was asked to manage that skipper Peter de Ridder’s Volvo Ocean Race campaign. 

Due to funding the campaign folded, but the die was cast for Sander! “I had already quit my job as an IT Project Manager and didn’t want to go back! So I decided to see if I could make it as a photographer.”
Lucky for us! Sander’s images illustrate his strong kinship with the sailors on the circuit.

“I know the situations that develop on the race course, which helps me direct the photo boat driver to the perfect positions, to get the best angles without interfering with the racing. The sailors know and trust me; when they see it’s me on the RIB, I can often get closer as a result.”

And another thing, Sander explained: “It’s also easier for me to shoot onboard, as I know where to stand and where not: even on a foiling 50 foot cat,” – like the last America’s Cup, when he sailed onboard Artemis, going 38 knots!

Sander still races – but sometimes finds himself wishing he was on the photo boat. “Never the other way around,” he laughed. “I can get disappointed when I come ashore and see the photographer missed some amazing opportunities.”
In addition to curating Sander’s images for the Ultimate Sailing Calendar, I’ve had the pleasure of working with him at several events. Even a broken arm didn’t stop him from capturing great images at the America’s Cup, on the rough waters of San Francisco Bay. Sander doesn’t let anything get in between him and ‘the shot’ … except maybe me! Often the media boats are so crowded, I can just stand right in front of Sander: he’s pretty tall! ‘Just one more reason we love him and his work.  

Thanks to Sander, and all our great contributors to the Ultimate Sailing Calendar.


If you’re a fan – check out the NEW 2019 calendar, which has just been released, at www.ultimatesailing.com


Sharon Green
Sharon Green


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