Case study

Barcolana - The race before the race

From Local to Global, raising Barcolana Awareness away from home

Each year in Trieste (Italy) the Barcolana, world’s most crowded sailing race, takes place. We helped Barcolana with a strategy that would increase the international awareness of the race while giving a gift to its participants and all the sailing lovers.

The Race before the Race from Pablo Apiolazza on Vimeo.

Client: S.V.B.G
Location: Italy
Project duration: 2 months

In just two months, Barcolana needed to create high quality content that could be interesting for international sailing fans unaware of the existence of the race.

After the incredible results with the story we created for Barcolana last year, the SVBG called us once more to help them create more awareness of this incredible event on an international level. Last years experience and results proven our content strategy right, with an historical peak of views for the story, with over 50k views and an invitation to an international film festival.

It is clear that our strategy was right. The best vessel to outreach is people’s word-of-mouth, and the most honest way to involve people is to create the kind of content that they would like to watch.

This time though, the time frame was narrow, and the bets were doubled. In order to strengthen the results, the strategy was to focus more on sailing and less on the event itself, which is of course the main principle of storytelling. The best way to invite people to the race is to show the impact that sailing, travelling, and participating in sailing races has into people’s lives.

The challenge – Analysis

A real sailing documentary had to be done, with twice the running time, four times more interviews and a whole new narrrative.
In order to make it, we had to move fast. Barcolana is a mega event that lasts for over a week, but the schedule of the interviewees and the slots to film are rather unpredictable and narrow, usually subject to changes due to weather conditions, press conferences, practices and sponsor-related activities. The arena is completely crowded with people AND boats, so moving the interviewees to more suitable environments is virtually impossible. Sound conditions are a nightmare, and the time for briefing and pre-interviewing is virtually none.

The SVBG proposed us four interviewees. Four sailing legends that could testimony the effect of sailing in people’s lives. Barcolana would be the scenario to portray with real people, real sailors, the feelings described by the interviewees. We had an average of 30 minutes with each interviewee. Then we had only few chances to shoot the champions during their practices, always constrained to weather conditions.

The strategy

We concentrated in the interviews. They were the backbone of the story. We studied the history of each of our interviewees, in order to focus on the elements of the story that were more suitable for each of them to tell. We blocked themes, and then the priority was to shoot the proper imagery of those themes. Our producer got in contact with sponsors, collaborators and friends of the manifestation to find and block locations that could meet the minimum technical requirements to have the proper conditions for an interview, and then the crews of the teams, to be able to follow them during the practices.

But the weather conditions weren’t on our favor. On a rather cloudy week, the whole race was compromised by a strong thunderstorm with 100km/h wind gusts the day before the race. Races were cancelled and most of the teams dropped the few slots to go out with their boats for safety reasons.

The whole race was compromised by a strong thunderstorm with 100km/h wind gusts the day before

We had the chance to follow Robertissima, the winner of the race on one practice, and that was enough to build our story.

Here’s a soundscape of the boat during training, made by our sound engineer Emiliano Racino

We then used the storm on our favor, shooting it to portray the dramatic tales of the champions during adversity. We were surprised to find a rather big group of argentinians in the winning team, it was a bliss and rather funny to hear sailing commands in perfect argentinian in the middle of the Adriatic sea.

The Race

The main date was the race itself, and fortunately the weather conditions improved enough for the race to be held. We then had a dedicated motorboat to follow with a gymbal the winning teams during the race. We focused in following the main characters of our story, since the filming crew of SVBG was doing their part on the other boats.

In short, the resulting work is the product of three key elements: pre-production, planning and reaction.

Even with a short briefing very close to the shooting week, we were able to draft a roadmap and a script for both the interviews and the main sequences in time, giving us the chance to concentrate on the proper imagery to build the relationships that we were looking for. The methaphore of the music and the learning curve of sailing was born thanks to this preproduction and research. We started with that hipothesis, so we put extra energy in the shooting and recording of the concert at the Verdi theater. It proved to be useful when the interviews confirmed the role of waves and sounds into the sailing life.

Planning ahead and prioritizing what had to be done absolutely during the race and leave room for support footage to be shot after the event was paramount in order to maximize our resources. And reacting in time proven to be the bare essence of documentary and storytelling, and gave us the chance to capture completely spontaneous shots, like the running little girl, that we found by chance in a peer while waiting for the boats at the arrival.


Focusing on the sailing world, and creating content for them making Barcolana the arena in which sailing enthusiast can experience all these feelings is the perfect way to raise awareness the right way. It’s too soon to determine the results of it but the whole Verdi theater already bursted in a big applause at the end of the screening during the award ceremony, so there’s a promising future for this short doc.

Execution points

The main objective for this ambitious project was to reach the length of a short film, covering the main subjects, without resenting the quality of the final product, while having several budget and time constraints.

The solutions was to push further our workflow, involving collaborators in key points. In that matter, the first solution was to involve Federica Raffin as a dedicated producer, leaving directing to Pablo Apiolazza.
As usual, we based our workflow in Slack, Trello and Todoist, in order to quickly put everybody on the same page. There were a lot of phone calls involved, since Federica, our producer had to contact several persons outside the organization who are not used to work with this instruments. Of course this is unavoidable, but we were abile to reduced it to the minimum.

We had the extra difficulty of translating and subtitling both italian and english subtitles to spanish, italian and english, in order to allow a further reach.
The sound design was done abroad, and in this case our remote workflow proven to be an asset. We made the basic sound mix inhouse, and then debriefed Emiliano Racino, who was abroad during the mastering. We dropbox’d him all the mixes and he sent us back the stems with the final mixes.
The extra footage with Jorge Muchut and Ettore Spezza was coordinated live in Barcolana’s press room, in order to satisfy each other’s editorial needs.

There was a bit of visual effects involved, specially during the night scene, in which we combined different timelapses of the stars, the insides of a beautiful danish boat and artificial light emulating the moonlight.
This flexibility allowed us to deliver in a record time for a short documentary, that usually takes several months to hit the 9 minute mark with a reduced budget and team.
Both the team and the public were excited and very happy with the results. Now the festival pilgrimage must start, and we’re confident it will be a big success.

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