Islander is perfect person to shoot summer’s sailing
Recently there was a sold-out house at the Jane Pickens Theater in Newport for a presentation about the upcoming America’s Cup World Series, which arrives in the area on June 23. Noted marine photographer Daniel Forster of Jamestown was chosen to be part of the it, because he is widely regarded as one of the most wellknown photographers in the world when it comes to the America’s Cup.
Forster presented a dazzling slideshow of his photographs at the Jane Pickens. He has covered 11 America’s Cup competitions as a photographer, and the work he presented was largely based on that experience. He also provided vivid first-hand commentary on the people, places and boats that have figured prominently in the Cup’s recent history.
Forster grew up in the lakeside town of Murten, Switzerland. It was on that lake that he first learned to sail. Both his father and uncle were good amateur photographers, and that lead to Forster’s initial interest in the art form.
The photographer’s early pictures were of his friends sailing on a lake, and selling them to a Swiss yachting magazine. In the early 1970s, the magazine began to give Forster regular assignments, sending him to some of the major sailing events in Europe, including race week in Kiel, Germany, which is the largest and oldest regatta in the world. In 1972 he covered sailing events that also took place in Kiel – they were part of the Munich Olympics. Since that time Forster has photographed the sailing at 10 more Olympic games.
“At these sailing weeks I met editors of magazines and they asked me to send them pictures,” Forster said. “That’s how I started.”
After his initial success, Forster provided photographs for a number of European magazines. His first trip to the United States came in 1976 when he was in Kingston, Ontario, to cover the sailing portion of the Montreal Olympic Games. After the games he paid a visit to the offices of Yachting Magazine in New York.
“They did an eight-page story about me,” Forster said. “That started my career in the United States.”
Forster moved to the United States in 1988 when he found that he had more clients in this country than he did in Europe. He first settled in Middletown, and then in 2000 he moved to Jamestown. Four years ago he moved to his present house on High Street.
“I liked the community,” Forster said. “I liked the setting and I had quite a few friends here who recommended it.”
The America’s Cup has played a major role in Forster’s career. He has covered every Cup since the Newport event in 1977. His big break came when he covered the 1987 Cup in Perth, Australia, for Time magazine. His photograph of Dennis Connor winning back the cup graced the cover of Time. It was his most important picture.
“The America’s Cup was a stepping stone for my career,” he said.
Forster prefers to photograph the competitive side of sailing. “It’s mostly yacht racing because it’s easier to make a living than by doing cruising stories, though I do those too,” Forster said. “I occasionally work for Cruising World Magazine, which is in Middletown. But I mostly do international sailing weeks. I work for sponsors of events or sponsors of boats.”
For the last 10 years, Forster has been working for the Swiss watch company Rolex. The company sponsors sailing events all over the world, and as a result Forster is always on the go. His experience for Rolex includes 12 Sydney-Hobart races in Australia. He has recently returned from the Rolex China Sea Race. After covering the start in Hong Kong, he flew to the Philippines for the finish.
Forster has also photographed the legendary Fastnet Race, which runs from England to Ireland and back. He has also twice sailed in the five-day Middle Sea Race that goes around the island of Sicily. Twenty-five years ago Forster sailed in what was then called the Whitbread Around the World Race (now the Volvo Ocean Race). He was aboard UBS Switzerland on the last leg from Uruguay to England as a crewmember and photographer.
In 2001, Forster was the photographer for the German boat Illbruck in the Volvo Ocean Race. The start of the race was only a few days after the events of 9/11, and as a result, Forster missed his flight to cover the start. But he did spend the next eight months covering all of the race’s leg starts and finishes. “It was a great event because Illbruk won the Volvo Ocean Race,” Forster said. “It was great to be involved.”
Forster is presently in negotiations to cover the upcoming America’s Cup World Series event in Newport, and will work in San Francisco at the America’s Cup fi- nals next year.
“After they take the training wheels off the 45-footers and race the 72-footers,” he said. “That will be pretty wild.”
The current America’s Cup-racing catamarans present challenges for photographers. “These boats are so fast we can only cover it in helicopters,” Forster said. “On the other hand, it’s going to be so fast from one mark to the other that you just stay at one mark and you know that in 10 minutes they’ll back at the same mark.”
Forster said that this type of photography makes his take a different approach. “The technology is what it is and we have to accept it. But I would have liked to see faster monohulls instead of the radical approach in doing big cats. The overwhelming concern is the TV coverage. They need to be able to sail in any conditions. At the end of the day it’s sailing, not NASCAR racing or tennis.”
While he is waiting for the first start in the Newport America’s Cup World Series, Forster has a couple of quiet months. He will photograph the start of the Newport Bermuda Race in June, just before the ACWS. He has also recently turned his lens toward ballet, photographing several performances by the Island Moving Company.