1989: ZLD talks with Whitbread racing yachts

Whitbread brochure

Photo: Carmen Hidalgo / Volvo Ocean Race

Paul TolenaarsBy Paul Tolenaars
Former Senior Technician, Auckland Radio ZLD

Auckland Radio ZLD was very involved with a number of Whitbreads. (The Whitbread Round-the-World Yacht Race was the forerunner of today’s Volvo Ocean Race.)

I recall it being a big deal for Telecom Networks & International that ZLD was doing the TRs (Travel Reports) for the race.

On one occasion we got accused of favouring weather forecasts to a New Zealand crew. It was media speculation begun by the boat that lost the sprint to the finish – as the race for the lead had been neck-and-neck coming down the east coast. If I recall right, a big squall came just as the two lead boats were near Whangaparoa. Peter Blake’s boat, Steinlager 2, was listening to broadcast station 1ZB and got the weather info from there. They moved into a more favorable position, resulting in a win for the Kiwis.

All the crazy weather caused bedlam at ZLD as there was a massive flotilla waiting to witness the finish of the race leg to Auckland. We had quite a few Maydays, including one pregnant woman going into labour. It was one of the busiest days for the ZLD radio operators in many years. Even Paul Chamberlin and I were manning the phones to help out.

The lapel pin for the 1989-1990 Whitbread Race, which was supposed to feature a radio mast - not a sat ellite dish

The lapel pin for the 1989-1990 Whitbread Race, which was supposed to feature a radio mast – not a satellite dish. This particular pin was donated to Musick Point Radio Group by former ZLD technician Paul Chamberlin in 2017.

For the 1989-1990 yacht race, I organised for a lapel pin to be made through the marketing person at Telecom Networks & International in Wellington. It was supposed to have a radio mast on it, but ended up a satellite dish!

Dennis Powell, who was occasionally the acting manager at ZLD, and I went to a number of the big Whitbread functions representing staff. At one official 89/90 Whitbread function, I recall Dennis and I stuffed our pockets and jackets with cans of Whitbread beer and brought them back to ZLD for a Friday night happy hour. They didn’t taste very good, in the opinion of ZLD staff, and were not very popular!

Editor’s note: The 1989-90 Whitbread was won in convincing style by Steinlager 2, which also won all six stages. This yacht, popularly known as “Big Red”, currently sails on cruises out of Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour.

18 Mar 2015: Former Whitbread winner Steinlager 2 leads the fleet out of Auckland at the Start of Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race to Itajai, Brazil

18 Mar 2015: Former Whitbread winner Steinlager 2 leads the fleet out of Auckland at the Start of Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race to Itajai, Brazil. Photo: Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race