Mikey Foxtrot Images

Mikey Foxtrot Images

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“Top Gun” for onboard reporters

May 20, 2016


It’s 7:00am when the wheels of my car crunch over the gravel of Oakcliff’s parking lot. It was a 4:30am, two-coffee commute from my South Jersey hometown to Oyster Bay, Long Island. I drove past the Oakcliff building twice before I realized I was in the right place. (Maybe it should have been a three-coffee morning). It’s a corner lot but there is no signage and the main building looks more like a decommissioned fire station — a large warehouse with tall garage doors — than a sailing center. “Where’s the water?” I think.

The warehouse has an office in front, but nobody’s home. The living quarters are on the second floor loft, up about 40 steps and through a heavy metal door. Inside, the kitchen and living room are empty and only the hum of the Sub-Zero refrigerators greets me. Sailors rise with the wind, I guess, and both are always scarce at 7 o’clock.

The Oakcliff Media/Onboard Reporting program is billed as a 4-day intensive that trains students “to bring the story from offshore to the living room.” Experienced reporters and sailors — including Volvo Ocean Race OBRs Matt Knighton and Amory Ross, and Sailing World editor Dave Reed — teach students to communicate through video, story writing, photography, blogging, and social media. Current OBRs mentoring future OBRs. One of my fellow Long Beach Yacht Club members tipped me off to the class and I signed up the following day.

One by one the other students rolled out of bed and we make the introductions: Claire, Francis, Will, Christian, Sam, Jeremy. We’re joined by six other sailors who are there for Oakcliff’s offshore and high performance racing clinics. Fifteen of us muster in building #2 for the start of class.

We’re led by Scott Guinn, Oakcliff’s director of Public Relations, who introduces the program and one by one the sailing and journalism experts who will be mentoring us over the four days.

You do it a day at a time.
You write as well as you can, you put it in the mail, you leave it under submission.
You never leave it at home.

James Lee Burke

March 20, 2011