An Non-Manipulated Photograph of a Keel Walk Stunt
February 22, 2012 7:15 AM   Subscribe

"This amazing photograph of sailor Alex Thomson walking on the keel of an 8-ton yacht was created with courage rather than Photoshop. It was an ad for fashion house HUGO BOSS, which has sponsored Alex Thomson Racing since 2003. The conditions for the shot had to be just right, and the skipper had to carefully keep the yacht at a 45-degree angle for up to a minute to avoid crushing Thomson and the jet ski driver. Here’s a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how the image was made."
posted by SpacemanStix (67 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
The point where I have to jump into the ocean to avoid getting crushed by a yacht three or four times in an hour is the point when I wonder if anyone is hiring in, say, accounting.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:20 AM on February 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


Oh cool, the Nazi uniform people are threatening to crush athletes now. Now *that's* Boss.
posted by Mooseli at 7:22 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


54 second mark, calmly check cuffs, tie - Robert Palmer style.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:24 AM on February 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oh cool, the Nazi uniform people are threatening to crush athletes now. Now *that's* Boss.

Do you also refer to the Federal Republic of Germany as "the Nazi country"
posted by theodolite at 7:27 AM on February 22, 2012 [16 favorites]


I would love to sail that yacht! But I can't; they've taken everything I've got.
posted by Mister_A at 7:28 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's actually Nazi-Planet-Episode Land.
posted by griphus at 7:28 AM on February 22, 2012


SPOILER ALERT: whatever you think of the photo, do not read the comments on that page. It's going to take me 5 minutes to get back to faking being productive.
posted by yerfatma at 7:29 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


This might make sense if they were doing it for fun. If they're making an ad, why the hell wouldn't they build it with Photoshop? The answer that jumps to my mind is that is that it's cheaper and faster to pay some idiot to do it than to make it with CGI.
posted by rdr at 7:30 AM on February 22, 2012


It looks cool, but doesn't seem that dangerous for experienced sailors and swimmers.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:31 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


"If they're making an ad"

Then you want it to go viral because, you know, then it don't cost no money to broadcast.
posted by three blind mice at 7:32 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


why the hell wouldn't they build it with Photoshop?

To get publicity saying they didn't use photoshop.
posted by usagizero at 7:32 AM on February 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


If they're making an ad, why the hell wouldn't they build it with Photoshop?

Because the viral effect of "hey we really did this IRL, watch" is way more valuable than the, oh, $10k necessary to do the shoot?
posted by suedehead at 7:33 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm on a boat! (Like a boss.)
posted by m@f at 7:34 AM on February 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


He got the suit wet.
posted by mullacc at 7:36 AM on February 22, 2012


Here's a few facts and figures from the shoot. Note that the boat crew had 45 years of combined sailing experience. There's a couple more photos of Thomson on the keel at his home page.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:40 AM on February 22, 2012


So was Thomson keel-hauled, strictly speaking?
posted by TedW at 7:42 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


The only thing authentic anymore is danger.
posted by Catblack at 7:43 AM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


way more valuable than the, oh, $10k necessary to do the shoot?

This was way more than a $10,000 shoot. I think it's totally awesome though, and would love to be on a shoot like this instead of a shoot where we're photographing some new surgical cutter. Gaah!
posted by Mister_A at 7:43 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I believe the technical term for this sort of thing is "ricockulous."
posted by Madamina at 7:45 AM on February 22, 2012


As in, 'ricockulously fun photo shoot,' yeah. I guess what I'm trying to say, in my mild-mannered way, is that if you don't whole-heartedly embrace this photo and the spirit that went into producing it, you are a bad person.
posted by Mister_A at 7:51 AM on February 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


So was Thomson keel-hauled, strictly speaking?
Strictly speaking, no.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:52 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


54 second mark, calmly check cuffs, tie - Robert Palmer style.

You could say he kept himself on

[sunglasses]

an even keel.

YEEEEEEEEEAAAAAHHH
posted by psoas at 7:56 AM on February 22, 2012 [36 favorites]


You could also say he went swimming...


...in a wetsuit.
posted by entropone at 8:01 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Combined sailing experience of crew 45 years? Only? I step on a boat I immediately raise the combined sailing experience by 40+ years. Because I'm kind of old. I would think they meant average sailing experience.

Also, those boats are pure expensive sex.

Also, that looks like fun.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:10 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Do you also refer to the Federal Republic of Germany as "the Nazi country"

Nope, but Hugo Boss admired Hitler and made uniforms for Nazis using prison labor, and the company more or less has decided it does not want to acknowledge its role in that part of Germany's history. Great ad, though.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:12 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


From Bklyn: "Also, that looks like fun."

I feel like there's a good chance that this could have been done on the cheap, given that the actual non-labor cost of doing this shouldn't have been horrendously high, the photographers/sailors would be nuts not to want this in their portfolio, and because it looks like it was a lot of fun. Probably still (a lot) more than $10k, but I'll bet that Thomson and the photographers worked for less than their normal rate.

Now I really want to go sailing....and also wish that I was a better sailor.....
posted by schmod at 8:18 AM on February 22, 2012


Well when I clicked, I was disappointed. I was hoping that some punter in a DIY boat was doing a trick, not a fucking 1%er in a corporate 12-meter.
posted by Danf at 8:27 AM on February 22, 2012


The best thing about that photo is the lighting. Incredibly dark stormy clouds, the boat all lit up, so shiny you can see the reflection of the orange keel on the black shell. And the man also clearly visible, natural proper light. You can really see the artistry by comparing the video light levels to the published image light levels. Not sure how much of that is in-camera vs post-processing, but it's well done.
posted by Nelson at 8:38 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


"worked for less than their normal rate"

Billion dollar corporation wants to make crazy ad, and participants would work for less than their regular rate? That's crazy.
posted by dglynn at 8:39 AM on February 22, 2012


Note that the boat crew had 45 years of combined sailing experience.

Too bad it was a crew of 45.
posted by swift at 8:45 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is what Jackass looks like when promoted five pay grades.
posted by bukvich at 9:04 AM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Trouble is, I'm now so used to seeing images like that which have been photoshopped that all the wonder has drained out of the real thing.
posted by Paul Slade at 9:07 AM on February 22, 2012


It seemed wrong for the keel to be swung the wrong way completely out of the water with the boat heeled over, but this thing is a flying canting keel, far from a proven/reliable technology. A previous Hugo Boss was lost in 2006.
posted by morganw at 9:19 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, wow. I was unfamiliar with flying canting keels. I was wondering how the keel was at that angle and was about to try and find drawings to see if it had some kind of weird-assed double keel or something. That's neat. Freaky new technology, but neat.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:20 AM on February 22, 2012


Nope, but Hugo Boss admired Hitler and made uniforms for Nazis using prison labor, and the company more or less has decided it does not want to acknowledge its role in that part of Germany's history. Great ad, though.

They do actually acknowledge it, though. Calling them the "Nazi uniform people" is just as stupid as calling Volkswagen (or General Motors, for that matter) the "Nazi car people" or IBM the "Nazi computer people" or Coca-Cola the "Nazi soda people".
posted by cmonkey at 9:34 AM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


54 second mark, calmly check cuffs, tie - Robert Palmer style.

Seriously, made the entire thing for me.
posted by fake at 9:38 AM on February 22, 2012


This might make sense if they were doing it for fun. If they're making an ad, why the hell wouldn't they build it with Photoshop? The answer that jumps to my mind is that is that it's cheaper and faster to pay some idiot to do it than to make it with CGI.

Authenticity counts for a lot. Any two-bit hack could 'shop that photo. [exaggerated yawn] Why stop there? As long as you're 'shopping, you might was well add a beautiful half-naked model, a shark, and an explosion. In 3D. [yawn]

You can't 'shop in genuine reactions. Do it for reals, though, and you've got a hell of a stunt that gets people to watch your video, express awe and appreciation, and talk about Nazis. No one is yawning. Everyone will remember the black-bottomed Hugo Boss yacht and the crazy dude in a tux checking his cuffs and tie.
posted by davidpriest.ca at 9:48 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is the photographer's name mentioned anywhere?
posted by unmake at 9:53 AM on February 22, 2012


Anyone remember that askme about how to show up in style to (I think) some kind of family reunion on an island or something? Cause diving off a boat like this in view of the family would have been pretty awesome.
posted by inigo2 at 9:54 AM on February 22, 2012


God, finally, I'm so tired of walking my keel in these same old tattered rags.
posted by mannequito at 9:58 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyone remember that askme about how to show up in style to (I think) some kind of family reunion on an island or something?

Yeah, it was pretty sweet.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:08 AM on February 22, 2012


Yup, that just looks like fun. Great excuse to take the boat out too.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:08 AM on February 22, 2012


a flying canting keel, far from a proven/reliable technology. A previous Hugo Boss was lost in 2006.

The problems with canting keels have to do with long-term ocean-going use (a moving seal around a largish opening in the hull is tricksy--and if your hydraulic rams break down, oopsie!). For a day-sail stunt like this one, it's a perfectly safe technology.
posted by yoink at 10:10 AM on February 22, 2012


How do they maintain that angle with the keel out of the water?

Every time I've taken my wife sailing I've reassured her that the boat can't heel past 90 degrees, as the wind bleeds off the sail and the keel counterweights the underpowered sail. I've been lying to her?
posted by Keith Talent at 10:12 AM on February 22, 2012


They do actually acknowledge it, though.

From your link:
"We can only repeat that the behaviour towards the forced labourers was at times harsh and involved coercion, but that concern for their welfare was also displayed, rendering simplistic characterisations impossible," he writes.
Impossible? Ha! You haven't met the Internet, have you?
posted by yoink at 10:13 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


How do they maintain that angle with the keel out of the water?

See the "canting keel" link above. The keel has hydraulic rams that allow it to be swung from side to side, providing more righting moment than a traditional fixed keel. I'm guessing that in order to keep the boat as heeled over as this they've probably weighted the lee rail and they're sailing on a reach with the sails close hauled.
posted by yoink at 10:17 AM on February 22, 2012


Oh, but yes--you're definitely lying to your wife--given a strong enough wind and the wrong wave conditions, any keel boat can go past 90 degrees. Not that you're likely to go out in those conditions.
posted by yoink at 10:19 AM on February 22, 2012


They do actually acknowledge it, though.

Kinda, sorta. But, great ad.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:20 AM on February 22, 2012


Two more things, about heel. That boat still has steerage with the keel out of water because 1) the keel is canted up more than a normal keel and 2) there are twin rudders, so the leeward rudder is still completely in the water.

Also, that boat's not heeling more than about 45 degrees in that picture, until the moment he dives off.

More images here, including some better shots of him on the keel

http://lloydimagesgallery.photoshelter.com/gallery/Hugo-Boss-Keel-Walk/G00009QGhNbFSup8/

posted by mercredi at 10:29 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think a weighted rail is the answer. I find it difficult to believe that without some alterations, swing keel or not, the boat is capable of that sustained angle.
posted by Keith Talent at 10:59 AM on February 22, 2012


A boat is easily capable of that sustained angle given steady wind. What makes this photo possible is that the keel is also on an angle so that he can stand on it. If you look at mecredi's photo link, you can see that the keel is not coming out of the boat perpendicular to the deck.
The fact that the keel is out of the water will make it a bit harder to control, the boat will slide sideways without lateral resistance, but its not that difficult with enough experience.

On a traditional fixed keel boat you'd still be able to get the boat angle, but the keel itself would still be mostly in the water. For example http://www.nu-zeilen.nl/files/2010/02/sailboat-heel.jpg is at a similar angle but you can't see the keel.
posted by captaincrouton at 11:12 AM on February 22, 2012


I think a weighted rail is the answer. I find it difficult to believe that without some alterations, swing keel or not, the boat is capable of that sustained angle.

Yeah, actually the canting keel is making the job harder (I mean, it makes it easier for him to stand on the keel, but it's exerting maximum righting moment in that position). I think they must have some kind of weight dragging down the lee side. I wonder if they've rigged up a plank with a weight on it that's sticking out like an outrigger on the lee side? If you watch the video the wind just doesn't seem all that strong, and at the end when he jumps off the keel the boat is going waaaayy over with no sign of a sudden gust of wind or anything.

I suppose the other way they might be doing it is that there's a speedboat tracking the yacht to leeward with a line up to the masthead and they're just cranking her over.
posted by yoink at 11:14 AM on February 22, 2012


the boat will slide sideways without lateral resistance, but its not that difficult with enough experience.

Once she's got that much of her lee rail dug in she won't be making all that much leeway. You've essentially turned the leeward sidedeck into a leeboard.
posted by yoink at 11:18 AM on February 22, 2012


Or...a final speculation...is it possible they've taken a chunk of weight out of the bulb on the keel? That seems a long way to go for a snappy photo, though.
posted by yoink at 11:20 AM on February 22, 2012


It's hard to see in the pictures, but there's a really big dude sitting in the crow's nest.
posted by exogenous at 11:20 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's hard to see in the pictures, but there's a really big dude sitting in the crow's nest.

Ah, yeah--that'd do it. Big dude and maybe slip some lead weights into his jacket and you're counterbalancing the keel nicely.
posted by yoink at 11:34 AM on February 22, 2012


On the other hand, it's not true.

I think we're back to some kind of weight projected off the lee rail.
posted by yoink at 11:54 AM on February 22, 2012


I don't know about this boat specifically but having ballast tanks in ocean racing boats is far from weird. I kind of assumed that was what was going on here. Here's a pretty good run down of the mechanics of ballast tanks.

And you know the rigging in these things is, like, pure carbon fiber, right? And the sails are used for maybe two races? And the boats are not kept in the water? And the crew are completely silent throughout almost the entire race? I had the chance to go to Kiel last summer (big regatta on the Baltic Sea) and in our group was Audi's TP 52 - which is a monster of a boat. The whole regatta is advertising for Audi though and so for every race some famous/rich/important person would be on the back of the Audi boat (they give you a place to stay and you are not to move) and as often as not a motor boat following with a camera crew, and a couple times a cameraman on the boat itself. They sailed for shit, considering the boat and crew they had. They got bested by two other amateur crews (we, uh, were not particularly strong). WTF? Oh right, they were there to put a good enough face on things, get the shots.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:03 PM on February 22, 2012


I don't really think you need any kind of special trick to keep that thing at 45deg for 60s. Sure, with the keel canted right out of the water like that, you would slip to leeward a fair bit, but that doesn't really matter for the purposes of a photo shoot. You have to counterbalance 4 tons of lead in the bulb, but you have a whole lot of sail area to do that with and 17-19 knots of wind.
posted by ssg at 12:06 PM on February 22, 2012


> How do they maintain that angle with the keel out of the water?

Same way you would in a Tagalong (a li'l white bathtub with only one sail.) Lean out the downwind side with your ass in the water. You just drift downwind really fast.
posted by jfuller at 2:35 PM on February 22, 2012


That's an awful lot of rail meat in this case!
posted by ssg at 2:44 PM on February 22, 2012


This is super-cool, and as much as I hate things that cost crazy amounts more than they are actually worth, I have always enjoyed Hugo Boss clothing and clothing accessories and also that odour of toilet for men that came in a bottle that looked like a canteen.
posted by tumid dahlia at 2:57 PM on February 22, 2012


Ugh, who even cares? This is just some stupid ad stunt. The only difference between it and your standard redbull stunts is the involvement of rich people stuff like sailboats and expensive suits. Which actually makes it even more bland. The idea that this is super courageous or something is ridiculous. People preform various stunts all the time, and most of them are way more interesting.
posted by delmoi at 7:05 PM on February 22, 2012


This is extremely neat, thank you for posting it. And loving the discussion of the physics of the canting keels etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:47 PM on February 22, 2012


This post led me to other "gravity defying photo-shooters", such as Philippe Ramette, and Li Wei

Li Wei is a Beijing-based artist that creates jaw-dropping scenes using mirrors, metal wires, scaffolding, and acrobatics. This is his website.

Thanks for sharing; the keel definitely seemed like it could cause some damage... and seemed to roll pretty easily (and in a manner I would describe as 'unpredictably'). It seems it was a well planned, or at least thoroughly designed stunt, I could see this being pretty dangerous in less meticulous hands.
posted by infinite intimation at 8:40 AM on February 23, 2012


54 second mark, calmly check cuffs, tie - Robert Palmer style.

Black yacht. Big ass typography. Man in suit. And then that move.

Yes. Hi. Hellloooooo. This was made for me.
posted by functionequalsform at 9:15 AM on February 23, 2012


About the "how do they maintain that heel?" question, I spoke to relative who's a boat designer. He says the answer is these boats are so light it's trivial for them to get up on their rail like that, and in fact that's why they have the moving keel in the first place. The hard part is maintaining control with so little rudder in the water.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:24 AM on February 23, 2012


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