This year’s regatta saw me once again charging around the water on a press boat and for the first time since covering this event, I found it tough. Rough seas compounded by the effect of chikungunya, which still persists, saw me having to drag myself out of bed and onto the press boat, all for the sake of taking hundreds of photos, many, if not most of which will go unused.
There can be no doubt that the 35th regatta was a success, and it’s sad that this will be the last regatta organized by race director Michele Korteweg. Korteweg has taken the regatta to another level and her deck shoes will be hard to fill, I hope she will maintain an advisory role at least until the next event.
I find it strange that year after year the regatta fly in an official photographer to cover the sailing. There is local talent that could do the job just as well, as can be seen by the slew of images posted on social media, which, by the way, is where most of the images end up. Very few make it to the mainstream yachting magazines. Perhaps the time is right for one photographer to shoot and post exclusively to social media, shots of people and boats. I also find it strange that a press coordinator (whom I like and does a great job,) is brought in from abroad when there are people on island who can fill the role, people who deal with local media all the time.
My press boat carried the video team from On Air Media. This team has been coming to the regatta for many years; they are experts at what they do and, in my opinion, the only visuals media that needs to be brought in. Their skill, and contribution to promoting the regatta over the years, is huge and there is no place on a press boat for inexperienced videographers. It’s been tried and always ends in disaster.
Filming or taking photos from a heaving press boat is not for the uninitiated or novice. Putting at risk thousands of dollars’ worth of camera equipment to capture images through driving salt spray takes guts (and sometimes deep pockets) and, as we found this year, a strong stomach.
Searching for press releases three days after the event is also something I have never experienced before. The regatta has a brilliant track record when it comes to press releases but it faltered this time.
Does this all sound like sour grapes? It’s not; it’s my observations as a hack and nothing more. The joy on the faces of the sailors at the end of each day of racing, the fun at the parties, and the high level of competition are what make the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta prosper, and long may it do so.
How we report on regattas is changing and the way the media are treated must change along with it.