With less than a week to go to the Star Sailors League Finals in the Bahamas, the 25 world class skippers and crews are getting ready to fly to Nassau. So too is the expert commentary team, which this year is headed by America’s Cup expert Peter Lester, backed up by double Olympic Champion and presenter of the CNN Mainsail TV programShirley Robertson. Providing expert insight into how to race the Star keelboat is Mark Covell, who won Olympic silver at Sydney 2000 crewing for Ian Walker.
This will be a second visit to the SSL Finals for Lester, a former World Championfrom New Zealand who these days provides TV commentary for the biggest events in grand prix sailing, including the Olympics, the America’s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race. Winners from every part of the sport will be represented in Nassau this December, and Lester is relishing the prospect of 25 crews going at it in a winner-takes-all, aggressive knockout format. “For me, the excitement is seeing so many ages and generations of old, current and emerging talent all competing against each other in an iconic boat.
“Wandering around the boat park and at the bar afterwards, you can sense the great camaraderie and respect shown for each other in this event. It’s also wonderful to see how the experienced Star sailors work so hard to get the new guys up to speed with the tuning and technique. For a commentator, the finals format is a dream, especially on the last day with the winner-takes-all last race. Last year’s Final - Goodison against Scheidt - was epic.”
For Robertson that final was also one of the reasons she is so keen to return this year. “I still can’t quite believe how close the Final was last year. Talk about dramatic! Watching Paul Goodison, the Star class rookie, win by only a second - brilliant sport. Not sure Goody could believe it either.
“I’m very excited to be part of the SSL Finals commentary team once again; the 2018 line-up has a strong mix of some of the sports unquestionable legends and the freshest, most versatile talent from the Olympic world.”
Mark Covell these days plies his trade as a professional DJ and at 6ft 7 inches, has a commanding view of the dancefloor. Next week he will be working to a different beat as he surveys the performance of 25 world-class Star crews. If it weren’t for a hip replacement a couple of years ago, perhaps Covell would be out there on the water himself, although he’s very happy to be coming back to the Star scene after many years away. “Things have moved on since I was racing in the boat, and I’ll be interested to see the different techniques they use to get the boats downwind, with the crews standing up and using their bodyweight to help work the boat on the waves. I see my role as providing some insight and color as to what the sailors will be thinking and doing at key points during the race.”
Behind the scenes, experienced sailing journalist James Boyd will be interviewing the competitors and analyzing the racing in his daily news report, whileSebastien Guidoux coordinates the SSL live broadcast.
Guidoux commented: “We'll go live from Tuesday to Saturday, starting the show 30' minutes prior the start of the racing (finals.starsailors.com/schedule/). Then every evening when the sailors come back ashore we'll have a "Facebook live mixed zone" where we will get a few key sailors and ask them questions from the global audience, make sure you drop yours at email@example.com or directly during the Facebook live.” For European viewers in particular the timing works well, with 5pm in Nassau equating to late evening in EU countries, and just as the working day is coming to an end in the United States and South America. There will always be a daily highlights show and final film made of this year’s SSL Finals.
Ever the professional anchorwoman, Robertson sums up next week’s action: “It’s a line-up rich in sailing royalty - being pushed harder every day by the sports new talent desperate to make their mark, the tightest of action, the warm trade winds, the beautiful turquoise water of the Bahamas. The 2018 SSL Finals has all the right ingredients for a compelling showdown, and I can't wait!”