Volvo veteran Rick Deppe knows a thing or two about celebrating births at sea having experienced it from both sides of the camera - as a father and as a Media Crew Member.
“We used to joke that I’d do anything to get out of being in the birthing suite again" - Rick Deppe
Following the birth of Team Telefónica watch leader João Signorini’s daughter on Monday, Deppe reflected back on receiving news of his own new-born baby while hundreds of miles at sea.
The three-time Volvo Ocean Race competitor’s daughter Isabel was born just four days after the start of the 1997-98 edition, then known as the Whitbread Round the World Race.
While most were fraught with concerns about taking on the Atlantic, Deppe recalled being preoccupied with thoughts of how he was going to get to land from thousands of miles at sea should something go wrong.
“I don’t think that many lay people understand why a father-to-be would go to sea,’’ he said. “It is a big decision, and it’s always a decision you make with your wife or partner.
“There is a level of guilt, and I think that was why I would lie in my bunk and worry. But, the joy you feel when you receive news is just as overwhelming as when you are by your wife’s side.”
The fair-haired, blue-eyed baby, much like her father, arrived safe and sound on September 25, 1997, news which reached Deppe on board Chessie Racing hours later by the then relatively novel technology of email.
“It wasn’t communication by carrier pigeon, we had email, but that was pretty new,’’ he said. “That had wowed us, and then we received a picture, which just blew us away. We lit up cigars and celebrated.’’
More than a decade later when competing on board Puma Ocean Racing in the 2008-09 edition of the Volvo Deppe was tasked with capturing the response of fellow crewman Michi Müller when his daughter was born.
The technology had changed, but the emotion and celebratory cigars remained the same.
Deppe’s footage captured a classic understated response from Mueller, while he was sitting at il mostro’s nav-station at night speaking to his wife over the sat-phone.
“I’m a daddy,’’ he said. “I think she’s 3,300 grams.’’ The crew rally around the last man on board to become a father, before cracking a bottle of champagne and toasting to Mia Carlotta’s arrival.
“It is an amazing story, to capture the expression of a man when he sees the first image of his child is incredible,’’ Deppe said.
“By then email was the norm, receiving pictures was expected and Michi was able to keep in touch with his wife really regularly throughout it all.
“For me, it was very different being on the other side of the camera, but you still feel the emotional enormity of a new life coming into the world.”
While reflecting Deppe said he had often looked back and wondered if he had made the wrong decision to leave his wife Anastasia’s side for the birth of their daughter.
But, Deppe soon recalls the experience of his first born, son Magnus, when he fainted in the birthing suite, scissors in hand, while cutting the umbilical cord.
“We used to joke that I’d do anything to get out of going through that again, but the decision to take part in the race wasn’t about that,’’ he said.
“As a sailor you make a commitment to your team, and it takes a special partner to really understand that, and I’m fortunate to have a wife who is one of them.
“The funny thing is that sportsman, no matter what they’re competing in, are invariably at their prime and at the age when they’re forming relationships and starting families.
“The difference is, footballers or racing car drivers can rejig their schedules with relative ease, but it’s a different story for ocean racers.”