Peter Montgomery: The Voice of Yachting
If you enjoyed episodes 6 and 7 and want to read more about Peter Montgomery, his book is available with by clicking on the book cover or title below:
Table of Contents:
1. A Yachting Bolt from the Blue (Plus PJ's Top Ten Sailors)
2. A True Blue Southerner (Plus PJ's ten favourite sports people)
3. Broadcasting Natural (Plus PJ's Best known Sayings)
4. The Three Worst Days of My Life (Plus PJ's ten most memorable Yachting Events)
5. Into the America's Cup Cauldron (Plus PJ on Chris Dickson)
6. The Olympic Dream (Plus PJ's Ten Best Sporting Events)
7. The America's Cup is Now New Zealand's Cup (Plus PJ on Peter Blake)
8. Mixing with the Stars (Plus PJ's Favourite All Blacks)
9. The America's Cup is still New Zealand's Cup (Plus PJ on Russell Coutts)
10. The Grant Dalton Saga
11. (Plus PJ on Dean Barker)
12. Family Man; List of PJ achievements
Peter Montgomery Show Notes
OSP: Hi Peter, welcome along this morning Peter to the Ocean Sailing Podcast and thanks for joining me today. Peter is the voice and personality that’s touched my life many times over the past 30 years, it’s truly a privilege to have the opportunity to talk with you on the Ocean Sailing podcast and a couple of months back now I read your biography, Peter Montgomery the voice of yachting.
Literally it was one of those scenarios where I picked up your book and it brought back so many memories from earlier in my life and I think I mentioned to you in the email, I was at a technology conference that I’d paid to be at and I started reading your book on the plane from Brisbane to Sydney and I ended up sitting at the conference reading your book all day and not paying attention to the presenters. So I guess as the voice of New Zealand Yachting for over three decades now and you’ve covered all of the major events including nine American Cups, nine Olympic games, and all nine Volvo and Whitbread races.
So I really want to talk to you today on three different topics. Firstly, your broadcasting career and distinguished background. A few questions on some America’s Cup related stuff but nothing controversial and a couple of questions on Peter Montgomery who is another person who has influenced my life tremendously. Jumping straight into broadcasting, where did your appetite for broadcasting come from?
PETER MONTGOMERY: I’ve been fascinated with broadcasters from a very young age and growing up in a Otago in Dunedin. I used to listen to a lot of sports broadcasters, notably rugby and other sports as in when they arrive, whether it was Olympic sports or cricket and even horse racing. Much to the dismay of my mother, I was fascinated particularly with horse race commentators and how they were able to say so much in so little time.
Meaning, the final straight, often races were exciting and how they were able to pull words out of nowhere to match the action in front of them. I thought that was a challenge and an art, well become quite fascinated to the point that when I got into my teams, I really often listened to many sports and particularly Australia race commentators.
Craig Fry, Bill Collins, Cam Howe, the list goes on and there’s some very good ones now too but they were just so colorful, so descriptive and they had a furlong or X number of seconds to say what they were going to or they had to. You had a word picture in those days, a lot of it was still on radio not on television. So I get it that television is to enhance the picture in front of you as opposed to radio is to give you a word picture.
So from a very young age, I was always fascinated with broadcasters and I enjoyed when I came to Auckland when I was about 20 — 19, 20, I came to Auckland for a year which proved to be the longest year in my mother’s life because I never went back to Dunedin and Otago. Through an old school friend that had gone to King’s in Dunedin, Bill McCarthy, had made a full time career in sport broadcasting. I used to see him regularly.
We were good friends when we were at school and then he went broadcasting in Australia and then came back to New Zealand and was transferred to go to Auckland. So we hooked up and we saw a lot of each other and on Friday nights we would go to the Royal International Hotel with a lot of his broadcasting careers and I just loved it to be able to mix with Bob Irvine, the current rugby commentator nationally across New Zealand or Howard Richards, a very prominent cricket commentator, and so the list goes on. From those beginnings of one being fascinated with broadcasting and two, just mixing with these guys, it was through Bill who opened the door that gave me an opportunity really to live the dream.
OSP: Okay, it’s really interesting because you’re one of the few if not the only person I’ve come across where you’ve really developed this unique ability to articulate sailing and really made an art form of your ability to articulate it. But at two different levels because as a sailor, I learned a lot more about sailing as a result of your educational commentary. But then I know so many people who never understood sailing at all but due to the engaging commentary that you delivered, not only learned a lot about sailing as lay people but really became to love it.
It always struck me that so much preparation must have gone in to the delivery of what you delivered as a commentator, the preparation around, and all the Peter Montgomeryisms that you became famous for, it always struck me a lot of work must have gone in the background into preparing to deliver what you delivered over the years and a lot of people will probably take it for granted the preparation and research that goes into it, they probably assume you just turn up on the day and deliver immaculately and on time and have no appreciation. How much preparation did go, or does go into delivering the type of commentary you did and such a colorful and articulate way?
PETER MONTGOMERY: On the very first day I started broadcasting, Bill McCarthy said to me, “Never ever forget you’re talking to the little old lady with a blue rinse hairdo and white tennis shoes in Riverton. Now some folk may not know where Riverton is but it’s actually further south than Invercargill. It’s a remote seaside village right in the bottom of New Zealand. I never forgot that and I still haven’t forgotten it and to the broadcasting I even do today, that little old lady is still my number one listener.
Because I figured very early on that if I could translate a lot of the gobbledygook on sailing and take people with me. She was my listener rather than the know it all aficionado on the Auckland Waterfront of West Haven, who often couldn’t be told anything anyway. I think that was a very important point and then came other issues right at the start that if I say someone bowled a googly and took us off stump or he’s hitting to covers or to gulley or he chips out of a bunker. The point is, cricket and golf commentators use their jargon all the time whether people, or not, understand it.
To a degree, that happens now if you look at a big rugby league game or rugby game and definitely an AFL game, those key commentators are definitely talking about the ruck ball or whatever the phase might be. To me, I spoke to Bill McCarthy about it, we agreed that it was important to stay to the integrity of the sport, but not to be patronising to the little old lady in Riverton and other people who really were only aware of sailing as a passing interest, to the aficionado know it all sailors who know everything.
So there was a balance to try and blend all that in what we were doing. Then comes the other issue in terms of the expressions. Well yes, I think I was definitely influenced by other broadcasters and would be some from the northern hemisphere, but principally from the people I told you about and the brilliant race horse commentators who were able to say so much and they might have 17 or 18 seconds over the time of furlong. Very close race, it could go to a finish and how do you described all that?
Some of that would be phrases and then comes the question whether or not they were noted, whether or not they had written them down because sometimes when you try and pull those out, then it becomes wooden and heavy. “I’ve got this phrase, ha ha, listen to me.” The question is, when you pull them out and how you do it. So I suppose some of those Peter Montgomeryisms just the way I’ve been speaking with friends for a long time anyway. With hopefully a sense of humour and fun as part of it.
OSP: It certainly came across as off the cuff and completely natural in your delivery, it was never wooden so you were right on the money in terms of the way that you delivered it and it really has been incredible. I think a question I have is, when you sit back now and you sit back and you look out over the harbour and you think about the last three to four decades, can you even comprehend the legacy that you’ve actually created personally for both, not just the industry but the country as a whole?
You’ve created legacy that would not be there in the entirety that it is today from the love and following of sailing and I think the way that our sailing industry continues to be held in high regard globally is partly the sailors we have coming through and the people that support those sailors and then the industries that wrap around setting, your contribution’s been significant. So can you comprehend it? Do you think about that at all?
PETER MONTGOMERY: Well I do sit down and think of a legacy or whatever but I am aware of people coming up to me and inevitably they want to tell me something, “I met you somewhere or I heard you somewhere.” Not just with all the key of the entire settings of May 1995 as in the America’s Cup is now the New Zealand’s cup, or other things that we’ve done particularly in the Whitbread races, the Volvo races, and also some Olympic regattas as well.
So yes, I am aware that people start talking about that but I was thinking the other day that actually a couple of weeks ago I was cruising in Fiordland that’s as remote as it was when captain Cook first went there and it’s breath taking and beautiful but there’s just nothing, it’s a wilderness. On board the vessel I was cruising was one Chris Bouzaid.
OSP: Right, wow.
PETER MONTGOMERY: Who really changed New Zealand’s sailing a lot. Yes, the New Zealand had had two Olympic gold medals, 1956, Peter Mander and Jack Cropp and then later in 1964, Helmer Pedersen and Earle Wells winning in Tokyo. Mander and Cropp won in Melbourne 1956. In another generation Mander would have been as significant or as impressive as Coutts or Burling or you name whoever you want to name. Mander was special.
But they really never left a legacy, they were small boats in Olympic regattas and while they were significant and well noted, it didn’t have a roll on effect, if you like as opposed to Bouzaid and Rainbow II, that was the first campaign on the other side of the world where one, you had to ship the boat and two, then get all the backup whether getting it was in containers or how it was delivered.
There was much more to sailing than sailing on your bottom from Auckland to Sydney for The Sydney Hobart which they won in 1967 or sailing to Noumea and then back to New Zealand. There had been other New Zealand vessels like the The Davis, Jim Davin taking the line honours in The Sydney Hobart 1966 and so that had been done but not on the other side of the world and Bouzaid had a crack in ’68 and got a very close second and that motivated him and his outstanding crew to go back in ’69 and have a go. They won the One Ton Cup.
In those days, that was the America’s Cup for New Zealand. They defended it in 1971 and although I’d started broadcasting in 1970, you flattered me with only three decades I note. So 1970 October, later weekend, the World OK Dinghy Championships were held. I thought that would be just a one off broadcasting but then I was invited to do the One Ton Cup which included in New Zealand One Ton Cup trials and we were on, we were all on New Zealand Navy Frigates and it was a big deal.
Because of a few quirks like wet weather across New Zealand and the National Athletics Championship being postponed or canceled because of the awful rain, that meant that there was only almost one event on two radio networks and that was the One Ton Cup, we got an awful lot of more air time than was originally planned. That was the start for me and I, there was a huge reaction from the broadcasting management that about our broadcasting commentaries which was flattering to a point but I think really bluntly, all of a sudden they were getting inquiries from companies that were not in their catchment. Could they start advertising? Like Epiglass marine paint as an example, many marine or maritime activities just weren’t advertising in broadcasting all of a sudden I think it the bosses saw, “Wow, here’s an opening.”
So anyway, things started off for me and then we started broadcasting right through the 70’s and 80’s on events like the One Ton Cup trials, trials for the Southern Cross and then came the Admiral’s Cup leading up to the first Admiral’s Cup Challenge in ‘75. Then came the Dunhill Cup, which was modeled on the Southern Cross Cup or the Kenwood Cups if you like and so we were out over the Hauraki Gulf up to the Bay of Islands down to the Bay of Plenty, weekend after weekend and what I was thinking, this is a very long answer.
OSP: That’s okay.
PETER MONTGOMERY: But what I was thinking was Chris was sitting down and we were chatting and I thought, “God, we’ve done a hell of a lot of stuff,” and much of that didn’t even get a mention or an acknowledgement in the biography Bill Francis wrote and simply because we’ve moved on to quite obviously the prime time events of world sailing, the America’s Cup, the Whitbread, now Volvo and Olympic sailing is the big three things which I’ve been lucky to go to. As you have touched on, what is it? Nine Olympics and 11 America’s Cups and all 12 Whitbread Volvo’s.
Sadly, a lot of the other events where we had a lot of fun, were over looked but I do get the thought probably and people still bring it up that covering all those events I’ve just talked about, One Ton trials, Southern Cross Cup trials and the Dunhill Cup and the Admiral’s Cup trials, they were off shore racing and in those days there was no Twitter or Facebook and it was just radio. Well, there was television of course as well but we were doing regular updates and the broadcasting in those days wasn’t the personality driven radio now where you’ve got to have a host with an opinion to provoke calls and talk back and all of that stuff.
So we were doing regular updates just of broadcasting and commentary and sadly the way things have evolved with technology, social media, and also the way radio is developed now which is modelled on what’s happening in Australia or other parts of the world, there just won’t be another Peter Montgomery. Because the chances I had just don’t exist any longer. That is sad I think but you can’t dwell on it because then you think oh you’re living in the past and it’s not like it used to be and we know all that, and things do change and some things have changed for the better, I love IT and I love technology by the way and I couldn’t live without my apps but it’s amazing in the last 10 years how my life has changed with my iPhone and iPad. But anyway, I am aware but not to the flattering point that you put it.
OSP: Okay, it’s interesting. I’m just going to just jump ahead slightly here Peter but you’ve touched on a really neat interesting point which I wanted to raise with you and that is how broadcasting’s changed. We seem to have morphed from technology enhancing broadcasting to almost to the point now where I watch the recent AC 45’s in Oman, almost feels so formulaic now and some of the colour in character’s gone out of the broadcasting because of the scale and window it’s fitting into.
I think we’ve gone backwards. There seems to be a loss of technical expertise in the commentary and there are in the US, I was watching the Oman commentary, three or four occasions, the commentators talked about kilometres per hour and then corrected themselves and jumped back to knots. If you’re a sailor, you never talk in kilometres per hour in terms of both speed and so I kind of feel that we’ve had this crossover point where we see technologies enhanced the experience but now the tradeoff has been the quality and depth of the commentary. Is that a feeling you share at all?
PETER MONTGOMERY: Well with your question, you’re provoking about 10 different issues there. So with America’s Cup racing, now going under 20 minutes, supposedly television driven, which television companies have not been by the product. Just this week I read a note that was on Scuttlebutt, one of the websites, someone saying, “So the America’s Cup doesn’t exist in Spain any longer.” And I was speaking to an Italian journalist a couple of days ago and he was saying that the profile in Italy now is little to nothing.
So this business of sort of having the instant gratification of the McDonalds Society that the people’s attention spans are no longer than 20 minutes is an insult. Yes I agree that racing at Newport, Rhode Island are now at Fremantle, some of the races were three hours or longer and that was too long, far too long. I mean we’re not going to look back at the good old days because some of them were boring processions. I think if you had for about an hour’s duration, whether or not they should be in catamarans or big 90 foot RC44’s on steroids or Volvo inshore boats with swing keels or because you’re still missing so much that when you reflect on the regatta’s from Fremantle and San Diego also in ’95 and then Auckland 2000 to 2003, Valencia ’07, the boats coming in from the starboard or port end of the line and going into the dial up, that was a maritime game of chess.
The mental ability of the after guards, not just the skippers and their crews to outwit each other and then win the start really was something. Then there were often a lot of close races as we evidenced here in Auckland in the America’s Cup of 2000 and 2003. But I think about it now, 50 minutes to an hour would be good, but under 20 minutes, what you’re happening here is the boat’s just high up, wow they’ve started, wang. In the great town of Bermuda, I know Bermuda very well and have commentated there often in the Bermuda’s Gold Cup. It is a wonderful place, there are great people and yes the beaches really salmon pink by the way. But the great sound for these boats after they start, they’ve got to tack about 90 seconds after, at most two minutes.
Well bang, they start, win start, tack, boom, top marks, slam bam thank you ma’am, it’s all over. So you do wonder what they’re saying and one of the things I would note from a man is that the advance in technology has got outstanding audio off the boats but that really has been from about 1995 on and improved every year and it’s brilliant audio and the trick for the broadcasters is to know who is speaking and to expand and enhance. In other words, let the sailors do a lot of the commentary and you need a couple of guys in the commentary booth who are translating and enhancing what they’re saying rather than just for the non-sailors listening to more sailing jargon or so on, you can do that now. I mean the outstanding graphics that have been developed by a group in Dunedin of all places.
But there’s some really bright, intelligent, nerdy blokes who went to Otago University and they could be working in America for NASA if they wanted to. But they happened to have married girls who want to stay in Otago and do whatever they do in central Otago and their horse riding and so these guys are based in Dunedin and those graphics have also enhanced for the initiated even, let alone the un-initiated because sailing is quite difficult. In the Olympics they’ve had different forms and some Danish system or whatever, there’s a lot of politics in all of that but all I know is these guys who have been involved in the American’s Cup have done an outstanding job and that really has helped a lot.
But yes it comes down to the broadcast and commentary and those commentators now have got a difficult job and it’s got to be different to the cups that I was involved in because you’ve got 20 minutes maximum, probably 18 minutes and you’ve got to talk New York headlines, you’ve got to give a summary try and also get the audio off the boat, what are they talking and translate that as well. So there is not now the opportunity for an expert analyst to start going on and on and on to fill in time as some of the excellent expert analysts that I had over the years with those.
Chris Law or Ed Baird and Buddy Melges, I mean we’ve had some brilliant people including Russell Coutts commentated in a couple of races in Valencia in ’07. I had Jimmy Spithill commentating the other races Russell couldn’t do. Both of them are outstanding. Coutts was quite outstanding but those sort of the insight of those excellent sailors now has got to be pruned down and modified a bit because the slam bam thank you nature of the race is under 20 minutes.
OSP: It’s almost like the perfect America’s Cup race used to be like a good movie, you could introduce the characters, you had time to build into the race, you had the challenges and the good versus the bad and then you had the finale and then the ending. That all fitted nicely into 75 minutes or 90 minutes but doesn’t fit into 20, so you just don’t have that kind of space anymore, do you?
PETER MONTGOMERY: Not only that but if I just mentioned Dennis Connor, Tom Blackaller, Buddy Melges and wide eyed young Chris Dickson and Harold Cudmore. I mean in Fremantle we had personalities and then you had the Alan Bonds against Kevin Parry’s and the people in the Bond camp up against the people in the Parry camp with Ian Murray and Peter Gilmore. I mean there was just so much happening with people in personalities that now a lot of that stuff has been knocked out of the mud. I say that because I’ve been in rugby commentary for a very long time as well.
The media prevention officers, some of the great All Black teams 20 years ago or whatever, went around and said you’re over to get coming from top rugby players All Blacks or whoever the visiting teams were, whether it was the Wallabies from Australia or very good teams from South Africa or from the northern hemisphere, and the players would say things.
Now, they’re almost on ropes and to a degree that’s happening in sailing as well. People are just, not scared, but they’re very aware and they don’t say anything. Compared to some of the stuff that Blackaller would drop a bomb and try to fire Dennis Conner up and often he did. I mean they’re all colourful people and I think in the end, if you look at whatever the persuasion might be in terms of if you’re following sport, what persuasion or football whether it’s Rugby League, Rugby Union or AFL or whether it’s football or somewhere else in the world, the key things you follow are people.
In a way, the America’s Cup with now down to six crew all with masks on and you can’t recognise them and some of them dress like the Michelin man and three of them don’t need to be sailors. They could be bodybuilders or rowers or whatever. It’s changed dramatically, really. My preference would be that we had boats that you could still — look, I get it because these boats are dangerous. We saw that in San Francisco 2013 and once the designers and engineers had time to talk about the 62’s proposed, they were going to be far too dangerous. Now we’ve got a boat under 50 feet, between 49 and 50 feet.
Even they are going to be dangerous too. But my preference is to have a boat that you could see people’s faces and get people back into the equation. Now of course, you’ve got quite a lot of people who are in the loop. There’s a lot of self-interest as well and as Dennis Connor once said, when you go the races, always backs self interest, it’s always winning. So there are comments that may come out from the defenders or the cup organisers, when so much of it is self-interest as well. It’s just the way it’s gone and that’s what’s going to happen in Bermuda but it is not quite the same.
OSP: No and I guess the holder of the cup to some degree sets the tone and the culture as well if you look at how it’s evolved and particularly last 10 or 15 years.
PETER MONTGOMERY: Well the holder of the cup has always set the culture and I wouldn’t say it’s all been sweetness and light in the past. We haven’t got time now but aficionados would know that the New York Yacht Club definitely were tough people to deal with. They kept it for 132 years. Now part of it was on merit because they had very good sponsors and patrons and then whether it was JP Morgan or Vanderbilt, whoever you want to name and a brilliant designer and in Hereshoff or Olo Steven’s. So there was a lot of good things but also though, some of the people in the New York Yacht Club were very, very difficult and really was couched that the cup stays here and then finally that mould was broken.
Probably I think out of Perth, under Dr. Stan Reed, the Aussies were too fair and too nice and too generous and it was a fantastic regatta in Fremantle and transformed Fremantle. It was a grotty running down seaport, which is a beautiful place now. I mean the legacy is great but really Fremantle and Perth deserve one more go at it which Auckland had, and Valencia had although under some controversy.
The whole thing’s changed dramatically and yes there will be change. I mean you go and look at other sports whether it’s motor sport and the vehicles they might have driven in the 50’s or the 60’s to compared to what’s happening now. Of course there is going to be progression but even in formula one, as sterile as that might be, there’s no personalities and you do get the impression that the teammates, Luis Hamilton and his team mate, they don’t get on. I mean it adds to something rather than the sweetness in light you’re getting dished out the America’s Cup.
OSP: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. One of the things Peter I’ve always found with your commentating style is clearly you’re a New Zealander, but you’ve always been balanced in your approach and I’ve always found it interesting that you’ve been able to communicate openly with opposing teams who often shared all sorts of things with you that historically they wouldn’t with most people. You seem to have this ability to find a balance and to build trust and to not be one sided in your views. Is that something you sort of actively or consciously focused on?
PETER MONTGOMERY: I think it’s just evolved over a period and during the 80’s, thanks to Cameron Lewis and one or two other people, I was invited to commentate on the Ultimate Yacht Race. There were a couple of guys from Fort Worth Texas, the Darden brothers who really had a vision and so the Yacht Race ended up being giant 18 foot skiffs, they were 30 foot boats but for the untrained eye from a distance, they look like 18 foot skiffs on steroids and there were some really, really prominent names there from around world sailing - a lot of the Americans. I was commuting to the US service six weeks to commentate whether it was in Milwaukee or San Francisco or on the East Coast. I got to know a lot of those guys very well and in an event like that, the tribal nationalism was taken out of it really because we’re commentating the over picture and some of those things helped and then from ’91 till about 07 -
’08 I went to Bermuda to commentate the Bermuda Gold Cup, so again I had the opportunity over the years to getting a lot of the competitors as well and then subsequently I commentated the Swedish Match Cup from the mid-90’s for about 10 years and then the Monsoon Cup. So at events like that, you do get to — after the racing, you may end up somewhere whether it’s in a bar or restaurant or something, you just get to know guys. So I think that part of the relationships that you just don’t build up overnight with Peter Pan and Wendy waving wands, quickly, it’s something that it’s slowly built up.
Over the years I’ve been — my wife and I become very good friends, a lot of the people like Tom and Betsy Whidden, Tom Whidden sailed in six America’s cups, is the big boss of the north sails organisation but he won three America’s Cups with Dennis Conner. There are many other people as well that we got to know over the years. Then when it comes to commentating at the Olympics and the America’s Cup. Then I’m mindful about where is the broadcast going to? In contrast, I think it was the Olympics in ’04 and ’08 to help fund TV in New Zealand, they would broadcast well over a hundred countries through Asia or through Africa.
Therefore, you couldn’t necessarily be — not biased, and never used the word “we” as it were, but you had to be aware of who your audience were but say take the America’s Cup and many of the America’s Cups, the broadcast was only going to New Zealand. So I was then aware that the audience principally was hometown New Zealand. I still don’t like the idea of we this and so on, you need to be at arm’s length and sometimes you got to even ask the hard questions. I remember Peter Blake once ordered me off Lion New Zealand. He got furious with me talking about the hard bits of Lion that wasn’t up to it.
You’re still going to do that as a broadcast but it’s important to just try and work out where your audience is going to and they could be part of the problem now with the commentary you were talking about in the current AC45, where is it going? Is it generically across the world or who are they trying to talk to and that needs to be defined as well?
OSP: That’s a really good point. Me included, a lot of New Zealanders wouldn’t appreciate how much of our reputation you’ve developed as an international broadcaster and not just a New Zealand broadcaster, so I guess that’s really helped for you to find the balance based on, as you said, the audience you’re delivering to.
PETER MONTGOMERY: No I’ve been lucky. I was sad that the Ultimate Yacht Race failed — the guys who developed it had a brilliant idea but they just overstretched themselves like so many other, regattas around the world where people have got a good idea but where is the money coming because sailing is not a turnstyle sport and not a stadium sport.
I think that is something that also needs to be kept in mind with the evolution of what they’re trying to, these races made for television and whatever, who is doing it? I’m actually old enough to think back that in Fremantle, yes the American had and some really good teams involved. One of them Stars & Stripes, Dennis Conner and Tom Whidden, Billy Krinkle and co, went on to win it.
But there were others with America 2 and so on and Tom Blackhaller, there was quite a lot of interest and do you know at that stage, with some of the races not starting until 11 o’clock or midnight east coast time, it was more civilised on the Californian Pacific Coast starting at either 8 o’clock or 9 o’clock. They had ratings more in the NCA basketball contest at time. SoI think it’s important that you’re not going to compare sailing America’s Cup or Whitbread or whatever with football in that case or American Football, or their other big sports and it’s just nonsense to do that.
It’s a niche sport to a smaller market but that market can still be specific for a lot. They’re the sort of people who might be a bit, to use the cliché; “upwardly mobile” and so that’s why you’d see these expensive watches being advertised along side or whatever. In other words they have got the target audience who they have established are sailors, which is not all true because as you and I know, sailing is not all rich, wealthy and elite but in partly the image that can partly help fund those sorts of things.
OSP: That’s exactly right and I was talking to Rob Mundle at the South Yacht Club last week, we both sail out of there and despite the perceptions, 90% of people turn up for relatively little cost at all by sailing on somebody else’s boat and the image there that’s its only for the rich and the elite helps draw attention to it and controversy and everything else.
PETER MONTGOMERY: That’s right, absolutely yeah.
OSP: When you look at your broadcasting career and I guess Keith Quinn and Brendan Telfer, you all had incredible longevity as broadcasters and you’ve all covered close to 10 Olympic Games. Were there common traits amongst the three of you that have helped you achieve this longevity?
PETER MONTGOMERY: Well I think probably that our timing was right. That the people knew now that batting's going, things will change in the next 10, 20 years because of technology and other things and media companies merging and becoming digital. Will there be as many print journalists or the traditional broadcasting journalists? So much of the emphasis now to get into broadcasting, the path that I'd follow, it just doesn't exist. You have to go to broadcast school now and in effect, there are young broadcasters that they're news journalists and they just are a factory turning out bulletins hour after hour and if they're lucky an opening might come up in other areas of broadcasting, whether it's hosting a program and/or doing commentary.
But it's not quite as open or, well it's different and so we were lucky. We were there at the right time. Keith and Brendan, and John McBeth. I mean they're all broadcasters of the old fashioned kind, having been brought up with broadcasters of a previous generation. And some of those standards all rubbed off as well. And those standards would apply to well known broadcasters with longevity in Australia or in the UK or America, anywhere. Well in Germany too, it doesn't matter. Whatever the language that those guys - but yeah we've been lucky. We've all been to nine Olympics and I've been lucky also doing other things. I don't know how many Rugby World Cups Keith Quinn's been to and Brendan follows golf closely. I mean they've been to other big events as well.
The other prime time events that I've been lucky to be involved with, well I've done every Whitbread and Volvo. I was in Sydney when the fleet arrived from Cape Town in 1973. Then the Whitbread fleet that lost a couple of blokes over board, but they weren't really given a very good welcome in Sydney because I think some of the key traditionalists saw them as a challenge to the beloved Sydney Hobart. So the next race then came to Auckland instead of Sydney, which made sense anyway. And then the Whitbread became the Volvo - so I've been lucky to be around at a lot of these things.
All those America's Cups and, well the first America's Cup I went to was Newport, Rhode Island in 1980 when Australia challenged Freedom and boy it changed dramatically. Well really a bomb went under it when Allan Bond and his team in Australia II won in September '83 and then the Aussies put on an outstanding defence in the Fremantle aided by an incredible place to sail, out on Gauge Roads. I mean it was white caps and wet decks every day. A Fremantle doctor arrived every day at 1 o'clock. I think there was one or two days only when as Buddy Melges put, "Ah the nurse has arrived today, not the doctor."
But it's just a fantastic place to sail and the spectacular coverage of that time. Yes I know they'd be happy, easier now with drones and all technology, but Channel 7 used their race cam that they were starting to use in Bathurst. It's got a lot more sophisticated certainly. Channel 9 had their blimps, but all the Australian broadcasters all merged together to Channel 10 and ABC. They did a fantastic job and then the cup went to San Diego and then coming to Auckland. So it's continued to improve and things have changed but then of course after Oracle came in and took the Cup away and it's gone into multihulls and there really is a bomb under it now.
So we've got the attention span of, assuming the people can't think for longer than 18 minutes or watch something for longer, you know it's got to be instant gratification, slam bam thank you ma'am. I know the sailing community is better than that.
OSP: The public are too I think too, they would go through further evolution. I spoke to someone who recently attended an event in Auckland where Richie McCaw spoke on the attributes of leadership and how that had underpinned the All Blacks' World Cup Success. Sir Michael Fay was at that event and was invited to speak and Sir Michael commented to the audience that if his team knew some of the leadership attributes that Richie spoke of that they probably would have won the America’s Cup back in 1987 when they first challenged.
When I spoke to Rob Mundle last week, he talked of the Aussie’s ability to play the psyche game on Dennis Connor in 1983 and get them off guard over covering up their keel and the hype built around that.
It seems Australians have this natural ability to get under your skin and if you look at how they sledge heavily in cricket as though that's just a normal part of playing the game. My question for you is, how much of coming up short against Stars & Stripes in 1987 was due to team New Zealand's leadership on or off the boat, versus some of the psyche games that were completely new to us and I recall back then we were called cheats for building a fiberglass boat, we had holes drilled in our hull to prove we had not broken the rules and it seemed that too created a big distraction as well. What are your thoughts around that?
Check out the first New Zealand's 1987 Cup Challenge Song here
PETER MONTGOMERY: Well I don’t think that there's any doubt that the mind games got the better of the New Zealand challenge. It wasn’t called Team New Zealand then. Yes the New Zealanders had two Lloyd’s inspectors, following the construction of those boats and they did everything well. Tom Whidden, who I’ve got to know well, about two years ago told me that one day he was driving Dennis Connor through Fremantle and he said, "I’m really worried about those Kiwi's, they got an excellent boat that’s been very well sailed. We’ve got to rattle their cage somehow."
Dennis was driving and he said, "Okay, yup." And left it at that and the conversation moved on to another subject. The next night at the press conference, Tom Blackaller had made some provocative comment and then Dennis Connor said, "Well there have been 73 aluminum boats built, why would you want to build one in fiberglass unless you wanted to cheat?" And then Blackaller goes, "I don’t think I ever said that." Now, Tom Whidden had sown a seed with Dennis of his concerns, Dennis clearly had thought about it overnight and really came out of left field with a real lefty and put a bomb under it.
What it did was that Dennis was tongue in cheek and Michael Fay was so indignant that his integrity and the New Zealanders integrity had been challenged, they took their eye off the ball. I know for certain that just recently, Ron Holland was here and Ron was saying that the three designers, Bruce Bar, Laurie Davidson and Ron had seriously urged Michael to get a heavier keel on the boat. The problem was that KZ7 had had 38 wins and one loss, so why change a winning formula?
Well, the New Zealanders learned a lot from that America’s Cup and the first and most important thing they learned from Dennis Connor was, the America’s Cup is a game of change. So if you may remember, Stars & Stripes squeaked in, struggled to get into the final four, they were nearly eliminated by White Crusader, the British challenge. Anyway, they got to the final four and then they changed. They had a heavier keel that could cope with the heavier conditions. Yes the day after KZ7 was eliminated the wind dropped and the next week, it was tailor made to the configuration the New Zealanders had but it didn’t suit them at the time.
Really, I think the management of the New Zealand challenge was dysfunctional, really that Michael Fay and his management team on shore weren’t really connecting with Chris Dickson and his team and I think it then comes to the sail issues that I think some of the New Zealanders, I know Simon Daubney proposed something to do with sails and as Brad Butterworth said to me not long ago, "Well if they would have listened to Simon Daubney on the development of sails and not Bruce Farr, that would have won.
So the point is, here's a couple of comments from guys really close to Ron Holland and Brad Butterworth all these years later, yes, they could have and should have but they learned and the lesson, the other key thing that they learned from Dennis Conner was, not only is this the America’s Cup a game of change, Dennis was outstanding in leading. It was a big lesson for the New Zealanders, that they took on board and really applied from 1995 on. "Don’t dream about things you haven’t got," meaning, "Oh god, wouldn’t it be great to have another six weeks when you got six days?" And, don’t dream about "wouldn’t it be great if you had another six million dollars and you’ve only got $600,000." What you’ve got is the time you’ve got, to work to and the money you’ve got in the bank to spend and Dennis Connor was just quite brilliant in his campaigns like that.
Dennis may not like it but his legacy was definitely picked up by the New Zealanders and that was a key factor in terms of the brilliant success that they had in 1995, where really Dennis Connor as a sailor - that had a lot of input as well. Before that, there was so many designers and you could go back to old Steven’s and go back to Herreshoff and so many and Sir Tomas Sopwith and the designers he had, I mean, they should have won that cup in what was it 1932? But the end result is that often the designers would ordain the patron backing each challenge with their design and there was no input from the sailors.
The truth is, a lot of yachties or sailors have got a lot of clues, a lot of practical experience and they hadn’t been listened to you. Dennis Connor dragged that out and that’s exactly what the New Zealanders learned from those lessons. So yes, they could have and should have, I agree with Rob Mundle and he was there ringside to it all as well and yes I'm mad. I mean I know he’s passed away now and I know Allan Bond gets a lot of credit for it. He went to the fourth challenge but the other guy who’s passed away who masterminded that was Warren Jones. Warren Jones was so quick on his feet, he was quite brilliant. There were a lot of other good people behind the scenes but it was Warren Jones that really upset the New York Yacht Club.
OSP: Fascinating. Really, really fascinating and it's almost seemed an evolution of styles as well, with Michael Fay and Chris Dickson, I think one of the catch phrases in the early days in the 1986/87 was Michael Fay’s golden rule was "I’ve got the gold so I rule" and we saw a different leadership style with Michael Fay and with Chris Dickson to what evolved with Sir Peter Blake. I think in the late 90’s I read the book Team Think, Team New Zealand and it was all about developing responsible leaders within the team that owned their area of the boat.
So the sailors drove feedback to the sail makers, to the people laying out the deck on the boat and where the equipment all went. And it’s interesting because if you look at this style of Sir Graham Henry and Steve Hanson, they built an All Blacks team with multiple leaders. I think they had seven within the team that owned their part of what their part of the team did on the field rather than having one coach and one leader.
It’s almost like if you look where we are today with what happened post San Francisco in 2013, I wonder if Team New Zealand’s gone a lot more back to that original style of one leader, one voice and a more, I don’t know if ‘dictatorial’ is the right word but a less democratic style of leadership in terms of how they manage, today versus that cycle they went through from the late 80’s into the mid 90’s under Sir Peter Blake then what's happened since. Do you have any sort of thoughts or observations around that? I'm not trying to put you on the spot either.
PETER MONTGOMERY: You’ve touched a hornet's nest there with so many different threads and strings. Yes Michael Fay was young at the game and he would have done things differently and I think if Dickson had been another 10 years older, he would approach things differently because as he’s got older, he’s got more experience and mellowed as well but there is no doubt that when Blake set it up, they had a certain budget they could work to.
They had specific people in and I know the beautiful deck layout actually came from three to four of the sailors. So much of the advances, the flat top main sail that came from Warwick Fleury and Simon Daubney. The sailors actually have got a few clues if they are listened to and there can be some input. Now I know in 1995 in a meeting of designers, this is after the 1992 challenge, remember with the tandem keel and the bowsprit and the whole disaster. Coutts, who happened to be an engineer, he was the advocate for the sailors and he was in a meeting with the designers, Laurie Davidson and Doug Peterson and Tom Schnackenberg and quite a few of the other designers and the basically thread Coutts said was, "Give is a boat that’s equal and we’ll win."
Now that could sound arrogant but it was really more confident because over the previous five or six years, New Zealand sailors, notably Coutts and Dickson, had been winning world match racing championships and they were dominating. They also had a handle on the sailing big powerful boats, there were a lot of Whitbread sailors back in there and as it happened, we know that NZL32 was a good really lovely beautiful quick boat and they’re able to win just on sailing merit. So things evolved from there.
Yes, I mean, Grant Dalton has taken it up and his leadership and what he does and how he'd done it, perhaps it's a throwback rather than using a lot of the experience and I think it was disappointing after all that Dean Barker had done and how he was treated but anyway, he’s no longer there now and he’s moved on. Peter Burling and Blair Tuke are really outstanding. I would rate Burling at the very, very top level. In the time I’ve been around, I think that New Zealand's had a couple of really X factor genius sailors meaning Peter Mander and Russell Coutts. I would put Burling in that group who could join them. He is special.
But in the end, in the America’s Cup game, he's still young, and he still doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and when it comes to development, the America’s Cup being sailed in May/June 2017 will actually be won in 2016 on the development of the foils that’s going on now. Burling and Tuke are on target for Rio 2016 in the 49er class. Silver medal at London 2012 and they've been unbeaten since from 24 or 25 regattas. Their odds on favourites to win and if they don’t win a gold medal then perhaps they’re taking their eye off the ball because of America’s Cup because it’s very difficult to dance and play in the orchestra at the same time. So yes the current leadership in terms of what’s happening, they’ll need to be aware of that so we’ll see.
OSP: Well it's a wait and see game that's for sure and certainly Peter Burling strikes me as one of a generation and for his youth in terms of what he's achieved to date, he’s got an illustrious career ahead. But that being said, you can be the best sailor but you've got to have a boat that is at least equal, don't you? As we saw in 2013, you can’t make up for boat speed in these cats on foils without at least being equal.
PETER MONTGOMERY: One thing will not change in 2017 in Bermuda, there was the saying, around Cowes of 1851 or whatever happened with Reliance out of 1903 out of New York and all of the races out of Newport, Rhode Island, and subsequently Fremantle, Auckland, San Diego and Valencia. "The fastest boat will win."
Yes, there’s a lot of one design elements now in these multihulls in America’s Cup, coming up in America’s Cup 35 in Bermuda 2017, but there’s still big advances to be made in those foils. Whatever the people are up to, there’s still a lot happening and Oracle’s onto their third boat and none of them can launch their new boats for America’s Cup 2017 until the 1st of January.
Oracle’s allowed two, each challenger is only allowed one and Artemis is doing a lot of development, so are the Brits, I wouldn't underrate them either. So there’s still things going on and whoever does the most development on the foils will win the Cup next year.
OSP: That’s interesting. So in terms of the rules around the foils, I guess they are reasonably tight but there's room for the best developments to drive the outcome in terms of the Cup.
PETER MONTGOMERY: Well with foils, it's quite restricted on what they can develop and how they can go there now. It’s becoming more one design which, you know, we haven’t got time to talk about today and how that can be happening but these surrogate boats they’ve got now, Oracle are onto their third aren’t they. I mean the development they’re doing and what they’re doing, I wouldn’t underestimate.
OSP: Okay, so you’re one of those people that pop up regularly and I know that when we talk about the Americas Cup, my first experience was 1983 on a transistor radio in a classroom in Blenheim at Intermediate school listening to Australia win the Cup for the first time and then '87 came along and '88 and '92 and in '95, I lived in Christchurch, my first daughter has just been born.
When you delivered that perfectly timed, now famous finale in the final race where New Zealand crossed the line and you claimed that the “America’s Cup is now New Zealand's Cup”. I’ve often thought over the years that you must have put a lot of preparation into that final 30 seconds in terms of what you were going to say and how you’re going to deliver it, because you delivered it with perfection and literally to the point where your final word came out as the boat crossed the line. Was there a lot of preparation that went to that sort of historical moment?
PETER MONTGOMERY: The first thing is in live broadcasting, you can’t really script anything and that means whether you’re the rugby commentator or its rugby league or in my case sailing. On the 13th of May 1995, I woke up quite early and I thought this could be a significant day for New Zealand. I just jotted down a couple of thoughts really on key things that I should try and wrap up that if all went according to plan and the NZL32 was able to win, to then in the final couple of minutes, try and summarise the regatta and also new Zealand’s participation in the America’s Cup.
Because I remember the first Cup I went to in 1980 and I thought I’d be supporting Australia forever. One, it was far beyond New Zealand financially. Two, New Zealand did not the expertise sailing these boats and they certainly didn’t have the technology. Then as we know the 80’s were a huge decade of change and so here we were in 1995 and it was all happening. In 1980 I thought New Zealand would get a man on the moon quicker than the challenging for the America’s Cup. It seemed that formidable.
Anyway, I jotted down a couple of notes and as the race went on, it was coming down to the final leg and I started trying to think what was I going to say and note. I was tossing these things around but the problem was, that we were in a 12 and a half metre RIB. And because of the security out on the water, to keep the area clear for the race boats and the US Coast Guard, we had to go further. So my major concern was actually trying to think, "Where is the finish line? Where are we in line with it?" And doing that rather than trying to deliver the words.
So it was a whole moving target and what I was trying to do and thinking, "Well this is a one off, you've got one chance here live. There's not chance of a retake to do it later." So to do that I thought, coming down the final leg, I thought if I had the opportunity, again coming back to those race horse commentators and the influence that have had on me and particularly the colourful Australian ones.
Back in the 60’s and so on, the Bert Bryants, Bill Collins and Ken Howard. So that’s when I thought, "Well you've got to try and say something, you haven’t got the story of your life, you haven’t got 12 words or 20 words to do it, what can you do in about a half a dozen words?" So the America’s Cup had to begin and then somehow I was able to pluck out the other words as well.
As much as anything, it was the pausing that, "The America’s Cup... is now... New Zealand’s Cup." Rather than, "The America’s cup is now New Zealand’s cup." If you get my point? If you listen to really good broadcasters and sports broadcasters, it’s their timing and silence sometimes is golden.
OSP: Okay. So Russell Coutts is clearly one of a kind having sailed for New Zealand for Switzerland and for the US and he’s achieved some remarkable things in his life. What drives Russell Coutts do you think to continue to do what he does at the level that he does? Because it’s a high stress, high pressure, high stakes game but he’s proved to be in a class of his own with what he’s achieved.
PETER MONTGOMERY: Well Russell Coutts is the only sailor in the world who has won an Olympic gold medal and skippered an America’s Cup boat. Now there are some people who would say, "Well Buddy Melges did as well," but actually Bill Koch was skipper and has made it well known that he was the skipper of the America 3 crew in '92. Buddy was the helmsman. So he is close to it as well and an exceptional person as well.
Russell is chillingly determined and focused and his sister tells stories that even when they were going to school, in the school bus there would be a competition amongst the family in their luncheons who has got the most raisins in their pack. I mean Russell is unbelievably competitive. Chillingly competitive to the point, I think it could be a worry. I dunno? That’s just one of those things, but what he has done, and then you think, "Well okay, he moved on from Team New Zealand," I think a different administration, different organisation, where people weren’t talking to each other and we haven’t got time now today, but there was a disconnect in 2000 unfortunately, Russell moved on to Alinghi and then he had his own disconnect with Ernesto Bertarelli.
There he is at Oracle and I’ve got no doubt that when Oracle were coming second, a distant second, that it was Coutts who really started working out a lot of the things and basic mathematics that if you widen the angle of the boat and sail quicker. Oracle started with a mast didn’t twist and yet it finished the regatta in the America’s Cup 2013 with a mast that did twist. Yes there were other bright people involved but Coutts was a key factor in a lot of that. Yeah, he’s definitely achieved a lot and it has been significant and he is incredibly, incredibly competitive.
OSP: But not one for the limelight. That’s quite interesting, I think the last time they won the cup he had already exited stage left and headed away elsewhere and he just wants to get the job done.
PETER MONTGOMERY: When they won the Cup, Coutts, wouldn’t go up on the stage, he didn’t want to do that. He wouldn’t do it either but anyway, that’s Russell, he’s got his own ways and he may not be everyone’s favourite with where the Cup has gone and the direction but the short story is, that’s where the Cup has gone and the direction, so we live with it and move on.
OSP: I think when we look back in 10, 20, 30 years from now his contribution certainly will be admired and respected for what it’s done for the Cup despite some of the changes that haven't always been everybody’s cup of tea. Team Japan under Dean Barker's leadership appear to have a crew that’s becoming more and more competitive. They seem to be able to hold their own in the start sequence on that first leg. It just seems to be the polish around the track that’s letting them down and obviously more time in the saddle is going to help that. What do you think is possible for them in 2017 when it comes to the America’s Cup?
PETER MONTGOMERY: Yeah, I think they are. They're getting good people around them and involved with them. Many who were very good people including a very good designer called Nick Holroyd who was with Team New Zealand and has now gone with Dean Barker. I think the key point is that, yes these regatta’s you're talking about and the AC45’s in Oman and coming up to New York, Chicago, there is one going to be in Portsmouth in late July.
Yeah but really the key question is, what is the Japanese challenge let alone Ben Ainslie, the French, definitely Artemis and Team New Zealand, what are they doing with the development of their foils now? Or their development on these surrogate boats and how are they coping?
Meanwhile as I’ve said already, Oracle’s on to their third and Oracle’s allowed two America’s Cup boats and none of them are allowed to launch until 1 January 2017 and how quickly will they come out and what’s the evolution? So just because you’re doing well in these AC45’s does not necessarily translate that you’ll do well on America’s Cup 2017 when the big show comes out. It could all add up but it won’t necessarily automatically transfer over.
OSP: That’s right, we know it’s about timing your run and even if you time your run and you’re 8:3 up, nothing’s guaranteed, right?
PETER MONTGOMERY: No, no, not at all. Well again to the point that Burling and Tuke are just, well they’re unbeaten in 49er Olympic class skiff regattas since London 2012. That does not necessarily mean they’re going to win the gold medal, they should and whether or not they take their eye off the ball because of America’s Cup involvement or as Peter Burling says, it helps them and refreshes them, getting into something else. We know that in the final six months of the Olympic campaigns, there will be people coming out of the woodwork. I mean history tells you that, the same but different applies in the America’s Cup as well. So yep, watch this space.
OSP: With Bermuda Peter, what can we expect there wind-wise? I know after watching the Oman AC45’s, where we had nine knots of breeze and foiling cats going around marks doing three knots and not foiling, what can we expect in Bermuda in terms of average wind conditions?
PETER MONTGOMERY: I’m told 8 to 16 knots at that time of year out on the Great Sound and it will be excellent sailing and not a lot of waves either, it will be really, really good but the trouble is these boats still, even though they’ve been pulled back from the 72 to the 62 to now under 50 feet, they’re still big and powerful for the Great Sound if you get the drift.
Rather than a more wide open expansive less restrictive area, if it was out in the Hauraki Gulf or somewhere else. So you’ve still got to be mindful of where it’s going to be sailed, it will be excellent sailing conditions. I mean Bermuda is really a splendid place to sail, just the logistics though, when you land in Bermuda, you can’t rent a car. The only way you get around the island is on your moped.
So there is going to be logistical problems. I mean there’s been no helicopters in Bermuda. So how are they going to get aerial shots? There’s a whole bunch of other factors there that they're working their way through that you've got to look at as well.
PETER MONTGOMERY: It’s all a new challenge.
OSP: Yeah, literally. Moving on, before we wrap up, I just really wanted to touch on Sir Peter Blake. I guess, I’m conscious of your time this morning, but my earliest memories of the Whitbread were when I read Digby Taylor's book, "Outward Bound" and that really got me riveted I guess on what was the Whitbread race back then.
Then I picked up on Peter Blake’s adventures and one of my fondest memories was Peter Blake coming down the Auckland Harbour, racing Grant Dalton and listening to your commentary on the radio and it was just - I lived in Browns Bay then, on the north shore and it was absolutely riveting and I guess Peter Blake, when I think about Peter Blake and I'm thinking about what he’d achieved and he was such an icon and a kind of an Edmond Hilary like figure in New Zealand.
And then when he died, the impact that had on me and so many people I knew was really - it only really paralleled to the death of Princess Diana in terms of stopping a nation in it's footsteps and it was such a tragic loss and you would know that far more than I do, given you had a really unique and special relationship with Sir Peter, which I picked up from your biography. What are some of your fondest memories of Sir Peter Blake?
PETER MONTGOMERY: Well he was a special person in that he had respect for people and treated them well, whatever walk of life or whatever area they were in, not necessarily just journalists or broadcasters, it was literally all sorts of people and he did a lot, yes, it was a tragic loss. Life sadly has to go on. I mean Peter really, I think a key thing was that he was able to put people around him and give them an opportunity and those people, I'm thinking of not just the crews, of Ceramco, Lion New Zealand, Steinlager 2 and then the Jules Vern and in the America’s Cup.
They were able to do things that probably some people didn’t expect of themselves. I’ve got a recording here with Peter after America’s Cup 92 saying “if that’s the American’s Cup, you can stick it” because he was brought in too late in '92 and Bruce Farr had the established management and this is the bow sprit and tandem keel campaign.
So Peter was there but he was too little too late. When Allan Sefton was able to talk him into coming back in 1995, it was Peter really on his terms. I think although he did great things, he was more comfortable in the campaigns of a big family and my vision of a big family is about 30 people, rather than north of a hundred people in those America's Cup campaigns.
At the height of the America's Cup campaigns, even back in 95, you’d have up to 140, 150 people. So you knew everybody, not only the number of people who are on Ceramco, Lion New Zealand and Steinlager but then the onshore people who were the backup as well. Peter was very comfortable with those and they were really his. He took an awful lot of flack saying that he sailed the Whitbread four times and never won it, well it’d actually been as a crew without quite the power and influence back in the first race on the Burton Cutter in 1974, on condor in 1977, so yes he had sailed on a couple of boats, Ceramco was a revelation and they broke their mast, which they did a good job of still sailing over 4,000 nautical miles to Cape Town under jury rig and then they overreacted I think and with Lion New Zealand, that was built to stand anything and it did.
So many of the other boats broke except UBS who won the race and Lion New Zealand got second. Anyway, they got it all together and with the perfect campaign in Steinlager 2, it was just quite outstanding and I think that was the most significant of Blake’s campaigns because that was the watershed to go on and do the Jules Vern and the America’s Cups.
Peter Blake disagreed with me, he thinks his most significant campaign and the one he enjoyed most was the Jules Vern, the second was successful, remember, they nearly flipped it, sank the damn thing off Cape Town on first attempt but anyway, they went around and got the Jules Vern record which in this day and age seems tiddly compared to where it’s got to now with foiling being introduced.
Peter ran fantastic campaigns with what he achieved, but also he was very strong on the environmental issues way back. I’ve got recordings of him here; "We’re 2,000 miles from Cape Town and we just seen an albatross," or he’s concerned about plastic in the Southern Ocean, or the birds caught in plastic or whatever. He was concerned about that as well so he was a special person and he's still missed to this day.
OSP: He was a sailor above all else, he was a sailor and a family man.
PETER MONTGOMERY: And he was a sailor that came from a different background because when you look at all the top sailors, they came through that dinghy, white hot P Class in this day and age, Optimist too, P Class to a degree, Starling or the equivalent around the world and all of those very good sailors, it doesn’t matter who you think of in America’s Cup and Peter had come through differently, more through more a cruising background and putting campaigns together.
He was different and he just loved those campaigns and he understood, he was not part of that junior sailing in the top 10, if you’re not in the top 10, you’re burned off and you think of the drop-out factor across the world and the number of kids who go optimist sailing and not many continue on into lasers and Olympic Class codes. So Peter came from a different avenue and I think that helped him a lot too.
OSP: Okay and in your biography Allan Sefton appears a lot throughout that and he's been involved and made a contribution to yachting in lots of different ways that probably isn't that well known by most New Zealanders at all. How would you describe the role that he's played in your life?
PETER MONTGOMERY: He’s been key, no, there’s no doubt about it, first we were colleagues in media and really, he’s been a scribbler in the written press, hence his name was Scribbles. He’s a very good writer and a brilliant wordsmith and he wrote books on Peter Blake but also on the America’s Cup out of Fremantle.
Then he was lured to go to the dark side by Michael Fay meaning into media and management and Alan was a very big influence and he did a great job, but Alan can be a bit stubborn over some things at times and a bit inflexible and I think that some of those things still maybe move on a bit but.
Alan had a very big influence but more importantly when I brought up the name Chris Bouzaid before and all that stuff and hundreds of hours of broadcasting through the seventies on Southern Cross. Alan Sefton was there writing for the Auckland Star in those days and the stuff that he would write and inevitably, the power would be on the back page of the Star and even leading some rugby, football, soccer or cricket pieces and Allan had a very big influence in the rise and rise of New Zealand sailing, no doubt about it.
OSP: Okay, that's fascinating. So just in terms of wrapping up, I've just got some final questions for you Peter. In 1990 you were awarded the New Zealand Yachtsman of the Year, the New Zealand Yachting Federation's highest honour. And yet for many New Zealanders it was really 94-95 onwards that you became more of a household name, largely through America's Cup broadcasting. How much did that award mean to you then and how much does it still mean to you today?
PETER MONTGOMERY: I was surprised at the time really. That comes back to, yes as you say; the awareness. Certainly through television and the America’s Cups but during the 70’s and 80’s, we had done a hell of a lot and particularly with the Whitbread and we probably haven't got time now, but I went to the start of the second Whitbread and Blake looked after me and introduced me to Claire Francis who was the skipper of ABC Accutrac and she was explaining, she was going to speak to Capital Radio.
Now, in those days, private radio was fledgling in the UK and nowhere near the powerful force it is now. The BBC still ruled in those days. Anyway, we took it on board and when we got back on Condor, Blake explained to the skipper Robin Knox Johnson, now Sir Robin, what Claire had told us and it was Sir Robin Knox Johnson who said, "Why don't a couple of Kiwis speak to each other?”, meaning that if we spoke to Condor, Robin Knox Johnson didn’t think he or his co-skipper Lesley Williams needed to be involved. It was a Blake who was a watch captain and so from those early fitful days in 1977, we developed it a lot more and Peter and I had a lot of input in terms of the broadcasting and how you did it through Ceramco and it became more refined and sophisticated through Lion New Zealand and Steinlager 2.
So a lot of those things in the input that we did really, with Alan Sefton involved as well, They’re just forgotten now. It was all part of the building blocks, if you like, in the rise and rise of New Zealand sailing and there’s no doubt about it.
OSP: Okay, on a personal note I spoke to Rob Mundle last week and he spoke warmly of his friendship with you and the many times your paths have crossed over the years and with the glint in his eye, he did suggest I ask you about the story behind the nickname ‘Splash’ that you ended up with at some point along the way.
PETER MONTGOMERY: You can thank Mundle for nothing. Actually it was Sefton. Well, there we were, we were invited to go to this stud about 60 miles north of Fremantle and the America’s Cup media had been taken up in coaches or buses to this incredible place where they had these beautiful white horses from Spain and did all these fantastic tricks.
Anyway, we were in this place and there was an indoor pool and alongside the pool was the Jacuzzi and we got to the stage of the night where people from various countries were invited up to do something, whether we were going to do the Haka or Pokarekare Ana or whatever, the New Zealand’s were invited up.
I got distracted as I was walking up and I managed to walk straight into the Jacuzzi. Hence Sefton called me Splash and unfortunately Mundle still remembers it. Our family are great fans of Mundle and what he’s done and what he’s written lately, he’s done an outstanding job and he’s being a very good journalist too during his time.
When I think of what Mundle was doing back during the 70’s and 80’s on the Sydney to Hobart, offshore racing and the America’s Cup writing for the Australian and all he did, there's just not those opportunities now and that is disappointing.
OSP: Yeah, some interesting parallels between the both of you with your contributions to respective countries from a broadcasting view around sailing. So finally Peter, I guess what music do you still have left inside you and what’s next for you?
PETER MONTGOMERY: Well I mean, I’m still involved in broadcasting, they’re talking to me about whether or not I’ll be in Bermuda next year and I may do some commentary even on Olympic sailing this year off tube, but now its the cost of the Olympics that are becoming extortionate and so prohibitive, that so many broadcasters in various countries, they’ll do it off tube from their own country.
I may do that and or the America’s Cup. I’m very mindful that it gets to the stage in life when it becomes someone else’s turn. I want to do other things while I can or dare I say it, before it’s too late. And spend time with my wife and family and other things and travelling, I’m still involved a hell of a lot doing stuff for various yacht clubs, I'm Patron of a couple of yacht clubs.
One a junior sailing club and another an indigenous, “The Mullet Boats” in Auckland. I’m heavily involved as a life member, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, doing a lot of functions for them. I’m still doing a lot behind the scenes and trying to give back; one, if various people I think I can and then two, while I can as well.
It’s been a very special experience for a long time and I’m mindful the opportunities I had for some, don’t exist today as we discussed because technology or the change in formats and it has been special.
OSP: Okay, it’s interesting hearing you talk about giving back, given you’ve been a great servant that’s given so much, it really does describe your character well I think. Before we wrap up, is there anything else, any other thoughts you want to share with me at all? Anything I haven’t asked you about, you want to comment on before we wrap up today Peter?
PETER MONTGOMERY: David, I’m looking here at Skype and we’ve gone for one hour 31 minutes. I think anybody who would want to listen to 1 hour 31 minutes with David Hows talking to Peter Montgomery needs a medal. If there’s anything else, cor-blimey their eyes would have glazed over by now.
OSP: I think you’re being a bit hard on yourself. This is such a good interview, we’ll break it into two episodes and without trying to sound too ‘made for TV’, so we’ll have a couple of 45-50 minute episodes, which will be great. I think you’ll find this is the extremely popular amongst our reasonably new, but growing audience. So Peter, I just want to wrap up by saying, thank you for putting aside your time generously. I emailed you out of the blue and you didn’t hesitate to say you’d make some time available when you could.
It has really been an honour and a privilege to talk to you this morning and in my lifetime, I’m only 45, your impact on New Zealand is unparalleled and certainly you’ve carried us through so many highs and lows over four decades of yachting broadcasting and one thing that stands out for me is I guess is the pride and patriotism you’ve inspired in almost every household across the country during those Cup campaigns. I think when it comes to sailing, its probably a level that’s unlikely to be seen again. So I just want to say, thank you for your contribution and thank you for appearing on the podcast with me today.
PETER MONTGOMERY: Yeah, it’s been a pleasure, good luck and good sailing
Interviewer: David Hows
- December 2018
- Nov 18, 2018 Episode 62: Nick Moloney
- Sep 16, 2018 Episode 57: David Young
- Jun 23, 2018 Episode 52: David Smyth email
- May 2018
- December 2016
- Sep 28, 2016 Episode 23: Lisa Blair Show Notes
- Sep 28, 2016 Episode 22: Hamilton Island Race Week Show Notes
- Sep 28, 2016 Episode 21: Ian MacKenzie Show Notes
- Sep 18, 2016 Episode 20: Roger "Clouds" Badham Show Notes
- Sep 18, 2016 Episode 19: Ocean Gem Crew Show Notes
- Sep 17, 2016 Episode 18: Elise Currey Show Notes
- Aug 5, 2016 Episode 17: Gerry Fitzgerald Show Notes
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
If you enjoy the show and find the content valuable, consider the extra benefits of becoming an Ocean Sailing Podcast Patron.