I first spoke with Corinna Halloran on the day before she departed from Lanzarote, Spain on a transoceanic sailing voyage to Newport, R.I. That was about five months ago, when Halloran was one of two contestants competing to become the official on-board reporter for a team of women preparing to sail around the world.
Spoiler alert: she got the job.
In nine days, Halloran and Team SCA will set sail from Alicante, Spain and begin the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, a 38,739-mile globe-spanning journey that Halloran describes as “the Mount Everest of sailing events.” The Volvo Ocean Race has occurred once every three years since 1973, and the 2014-15 race will last nine months and include stops in countries such as China, New Zealand, South Africa, and Brazil. A total of seven teams and 66 sailors are participating in the event.
As Team SCA’s on-board reporter, Halloran, who graduated from USF in 2007, will tell stories about the team’s sailors through photography, video, and writing. Since she was hired in June, the past few months have been filled with practice races, media training, and other forms of extensive preparation. In July, Team SCA, the race’s lone all-female team, sailed around the Canary Islands, and that was followed by a 1800-mile trip around Britain and Ireland in August. The final practice run was Leg Zero, a race from Alicante to the island of Majorca.
It has been a whirlwind summer for Halloran, and amidst all the chaos of getting ready for the race, her reality has yet to sink in.
“I think I’m still in shock. I’m still waiting for it to hit,” Halloran said.
Though the countdown to departure has undoubtedly begun, she has found a healthy way to deal with the powerful combination of nerves and excitement.
“The only way that you can stay sane and stay happy is just being present,” Halloran said. “Then you can enjoy the moments leading up to the race, because that’s half of the fun.”
When the anticipation is over, and the boats are bobbing to the rhythm of the waves with nothing but water surrounding them, Halloran will finally be able to focus on her craft. She wants to avoid making her reporting a “me show,” and intends to use her unique setting to express a visually gripping story.
“You’re on a 65-foot boat for a little under a year, and that’s all you have to shoot, to photograph, to video, and to write about,” Halloran said. “It’s this 65-foot little bubble, so you have to think creatively in order to keep it fresh.”
Although the race spans four different oceans, Halloran and Team SCA hope to make an impact on land as well. According to Halloran, Team SCA plans to reach the communities of each city they stop in, whether it is inspiring women in third-world countries or reading to children who were born in prisons.
“There’s not another team that seems to have a greater global effect,” Halloran said. “The media career and the sailing career…it’s a career, it’s a great benefit. But to have a long-lasting impact on somebody, that’s the best part.”
For Halloran and the rest of the crew, the team’s objectives go far beyond winning the race.
“If [a] little girl or older girl is inspired by us and does something to achieve her dreams and goals, that’s when you know that this project is bigger than just a sailing race,” Halloran said.
The Volvo Ocean Race ends on June 27, 2015, exactly 259 days after the sailors leave Alicante. No matter how much one prepares, embarking on such a significant, life-altering adventure is often preceded by an uncomfortable fear of the unknown.
“That’s an incredibly strange feeling, knowing that I’m going into a situation that’s going to change my life, and not knowing how I’m going to change in such a short period of time,” Halloran said. “Life-changing moments, you would assume, happen a little bit gradually…you go to university and your life slowly changes. Maybe [this] is like having a kid, all of a sudden you wake up and you’re a totally different person.”
Given her inability to predict the future, Halloran’s “living in the moment” approach has served her quite well. Her infectious enthusiasm has been present even in the warm-up races: Before the Leg Zero run, she was told that she seemed too calm and relaxed, and her response was “Why not? I’m about to go sailing!”