The joys of the radio commentary boat
I say joys because for four glorious days, from February 28 to March 3, joy is what it was. The 39th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta rolled over the island with spectacular sailing, wonderful trade wind conditions, and superb parties that reverberated to music of all kinds from some seriously talented acts including The Jacksons.
I began broadcasting from the Island 92 radio boat back when all we had was cheap cell phones and a signal that at best was hit and miss. There was no feedback from the studio, you were on air or not, and you never knew which. A ten minute call reporting all the drama of a thrilling start might have been dropped after 20 seconds leaving you talking to yourself, a few photographers on the boat and a clutch of bedraggled pelicans.
This year I rejoined the sea-going team of Island 92 reporters; station owner Jeffery Sochrin (aka Doctor Soc), and the Caribbean’s leading sailing pundit, Cary Byerley, whose knowledge of sailing, Caribbean sailing in particular, is as deep as the Marianas trench.
To say ‘regatta radio’ has changed over the years is an understatement.
For one, Island 92 now has its own ‘dedicated’ media boat. No more sharing with a motley collection of sweaty photographers and videographers (it’s okay, we’re all mates). Better yet, upgrades to the station’s mobile communications equipment have placed Island 92 at the forefront of Caribbean sailing commentary and links via the internet allow what’s happening on the water to be streamed to the world in real time.
A team covering the regatta from various locations along the shore added to the listeners’ fun. All this was held together in the studio by Erb, Island 92’s techno genius and presenter whose catchy radio voice and penchant for Grey Goose is legendary.
Boisterous conditions make for sparkling sailing conditions for the racing yachts but are gut-wrenching on a small press boat. To calm my stomach I always eat at sea, but after four days of Island 92 sandwiches I (and my creaking bowels) never want to see a cheese sandwich again.
I’ve reported on many St. Maarten Heineken Regattas for radio, print media and video and done it in all sorts of conditions: flat calm with races abandoned, and storm-force winds with the media boat falling apart, cameras ruined, and press hammered black and blue and seeking medical assistance. The 39th was magic. Blue skies, 18 knot trade winds and just enough sea running to make it, er, interesting.
A good press boat puts you at the very heart of the racing. When a forty-footer was over the start line early and sailed around the committee boat to restart, it found its course blocked by spectator boats that forced it to sail so close to the start boat that its mainsail hit it with a loud thwack. We were there among the shouting and obscene gestures. Epic stuff. Disaster averted, but only just.
It’s fair to say sailing is not much of a spectator sport, but a knowledgeable, entertaining, live radio broadcast from the water can bring sailing excitement into the lives of people who know nothing about the sport and wouldn’t get on a boat if you paid them.
So, I returned to the radio boat and had a wonderful time. Back behind a microphone doing something I love. I’m a lucky guy.
None of this could happened without some very special people. A big thank you goes to the team at Island 92, stars every one of them. Afloat, commentators Doctor Soc, Cary Byerley and Omari Timmermans. The shore team; Charles ‘Mr S’ Southworth, Rebecca Low and Heather Court, and, of course, audio wiz and studio anchorman Eric ‘Erb’ Boyer. Erb broadcast our reports and kept the music pumping between the sailing action.
Thanks also go to Billy Bones Charters who provided us with a splendid press boat, and gallant Captain Al for keeping us safe if not always dry.
Island 92 regatta team (standing, from left): Captain Al, Omari Timmermans, Jeffery ‘Dr Soc’ Sochrin. (Front row): Gary Brown, Charles ‘Mr S’ Southworth, and Cary Byerley. Missing from the photo, Erb Boyer, Heather Court and Rebecca Low
Join the Island 92 radio team for the 40th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta March 5 – 8 2020.
See you on the water