'I am really new to this commentating thing, and it’s a pretty steep learning curve!' Andy Rice is the man with the headset on and the mic in his hand at the Extreme Sailing Series event in Singapore. He knows plenty about sailing, but how does that translate into talking nineteen to the dozen and getting information across to a crowd that is not necessarily sailing-jargon-literate?
'It’s a lot harder than I anticipated.' Well, that’s honest for a start! 'It’s like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time. Place-changing the whole, whole time. Whoever starts well doesn’t necessarily they are going to do well – so many place changes, it feels like calling a horse race sometimes, and it is so unpredictable. Not to mention the fact that there's someone talking in your ear at the same time'
'What we are learning all the time is that knowing this game too well may mean knowing too much.
We have to make the commentary accessible to non-sailors, and trying to remember what you didn’t know before you got into this all. We are getting lessons in this all the time – don’t talk about ‘the windward mark’, talk about ‘the red mark at the top of the screen’ and don’t assume too much knowledge.'
Accessibility is one thing, but there are two sides to every equation. To dig up a well-worn and very Catholic question, ‘How far can you go?’ Rice thinks that there is such a thing as too much ‘dumbing down’. 'I think you’ve got to try and take the audience with you as well. Educate, as it were. You really can’t spend the whole time on air trying to explain absolutely everything, I think that would turn everybody off!'
'If there is a website attached to the event and you can get people interested enough to go and take a look (www.extremesailingseries.com for those of you at the back) then that’s where they can fill in the gaps - if they are sufficiently interested. That’s the balance that is tricky to hit.'
'When I watch rugby I certainly don’t understand every nuance of what’s going on, but I still enjoy the game.
Sometimes, heck, I’m not even sure why the ref has blown his whistle, but it doesn’t detract from the match. Sure, maybe I’d enjoy it even more if I did appreciate all the subtleties, but that’s for me to find out, and meanwhile I am sufficiently interested in the sport to enjoy a Six Nations’ game, and watch another one.
What I’d like to be able to do is get the spectators here sufficiently interested to sit up and take notice next time they see some sailing going on.'