Radio Broadcast of 1934 America's Cup Crossed the Globe

Photo of a model of the J class yacht Endeavour, which competed in the 1934 America's Cup broadcast on radio
A model of the Endeavour, challenger in the 1934 America's Cup

Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent, months of work have been devoted to obtaining and perfecting equipment -- all to the point that the greatest maritime sporting event on the yearly calendar, the America's Cup (International Yacht Races), may be brought to radio listeners in complete and thrilling detail.

From the air, reporters will give accounts of the races as they circle above the competing yachts. On the water, cutters will carry details. of the contest from specially built transmitting stations. A listener sitting in their home with the races tuned in may be able thereby to get a many-sided picture of the races not possible to spectators on the scene anywhere along the 30-mile course. Furthermore, a carefully selected and unusually well-versed group of yachting experts have been hired to bring the races to your living room. Truly, radio's part in the coming event represents in many ways the broadcasting feat of the year.

Ever since the trials began early in June, the engineers of both the National Broadcasting Company and the Columbia Broadcasting System have been wrestling with the trying problems of rigging up equipment and arranging a suitable background for a letter-perfect. audible report of the 83-year-old event.

To augment a regular corps of trained sports announcers, NBC conducted a series of strange auditions, in which 40 millionaires --count 'em -- vied for the honor of becoming a nautical radio reporter. Some of the best known persons in the financial world, who are social leaders and skippers of racing yachts as well, went through the voice and diction tests, with the audition chiefs sitting in judgment of vocal and descriptive qualifications.

Pay of course was no incentive to the society sportsmen. The group of yachting enthusiasts volunteered their services in the interests of accuracy and the desire to prevent erroneous descriptions from being broadcast.

As this is being written. only one millionaire skipper has successfully passed the microphone test. He is Fred Gade, a social registerite, and he will be progressively stationed at strategic positions along the racing course when the races get under way.

Frederick Gade, or Fred Gade as he is known in yachting circles, is a yachtsman of long experience, and is rated as one of the crack skippers of America. One can safely say that he was born, bred and brought up to the salt water and the sailing of sloops. He is supremely happy in anything that floats, and spends all of his spare time, when he is free from his Wall Street office, in yachting. He has sailed, raced and cruised in national and international competition. Since he was a youngster he has manned all types of boats from dinghies to eight-meter craft, one of which he owns. The New York Yacht Club is authority for the statement that the National Broadcasting Company has chosen in him a man of proven ability with a lifetime of yachting experience.

"Of course it's great fun discussing the yacht races over the air," said Gade, 'but I've accepted the task primarily in order to prevent some of the grievous past errors from cropping up again. I believe that the American public is becoming more yacht-minded than ever, and they must given a square deal in acquainting them with what is occurring out there in the open sea.

"Yachting is a wonderful sport, the true blue ribbon amateur sport of the nation. Yankee Endeavor and Rainbow are grand boats. Their aggregate cost is in the vicinity of two million dollars. The pair that race should put up an immortal struggle."

Gade, of course. would not predict the winner. He did however make one significant remark. "I'm happy that Mr. Sopwith did not give in to the professional crew which struck on him when he needed them most. He has a great crew of amateurs aboard now, and in my estimation they are as capable as any crew assembled for the races. The day of the professiona1 in yachting is about over. Soon every sloop will be completely manned by amateur sportsmen. It will be a radical departure, but it will work. Of that I am positive."

NBC will broadcast six times a day over the coast-to-coast networks every day the races are run. In addition, the broadcasts will be relayed by shortwave to the BBC, so that English listeners may follow the yachts as they vie for top honors. The voices of announcers Bill Lundell and Ben Grauer will describe the tactical maneuvers of the challenging Endeavour and the defending. Rod Stephens, internationally famous naval architect and yachtsman, has been hired to command one of the mike positions aboard an NBC Coast Guard cutter, which will keep abreast of the racing yachts.

The start of each race will be broadcast from 11:15 a.m. to 12 noon Eastern, over the networks of WJZ-WEAF. The progress of the yachts as they round Brenton Reef Lightship will be broadcast over the WEAF network at 1:30, 2:15 and 4:15 p. m.. and over WJZ at 3:30 p. m. The results of each day's race will be heard over both NBC networks at about 4:30 p.m.

Columbia has not been outdone in the matter of elaborate preparations for reporting the races. The United States Coast Guard has cooperated with CBS, and engineers are now building a shortwave transmitting station on one of the cutters which will patrol the course. CBS will also use a special plane which will cruise above the competing yachts. Ted Husing, ace CBS sports announcer, will give the listeners a description of the match from the air.

Herbert L Stone, editor the magazine Yachting, who is considered one of the foremost authorities on the subject in the United States, has been signed to head the CBS announcing staff.

A "cue" station has been erected by Columbia at Sakonet Point. where Paul White, head of the Special Events department, will direct the.CBS broadcasts. White will be in constant communication with both the cutter and the plane, and will signal the announcers when to start and when to stop their portions of the program. The voices from the plane and the cutter will be transmitted by short wave to Sakonet Point, and relayed to the studios of WABC by telephone lines, from which point they will be sent out over the Columbia network.

Interest in the: International Cup Races has mounted tremendously since radio started to play such an important part in reporting the famous maritime event. Sports-loving American fans entirely unfamiliar with yachting terms and tactics, are nevertheless vitally interested in the sporting struggle that gets underway September 15.

The American Defense candidates had a thrilling time in the elimination heats to determine the ultimate defender. The Yankee, commanded by Charles Francis Adams, held a slight early edge in the trial heats over the Rainbow. commanded by Commodore Harold Sterling Vanderbilt. The Weetamoe made a gallant showing, but could not keep up with her elimination rivals.

The Rainbow. however, showed her heels to the Yankee, making her the inevitable choice to defend the cup.

The challenging Endeavour.. commanded by Thomas Sopwith, millionaire Bntish airplane manufacturer, is conceded to have one of the best chances of hitting the cup since the late Sir Thomas Lipton took up the hopeless task many years ago.

The Endeavour is equipped with a flexible boom that has been the subject of a flurry of debate among racing experts. Despite the fact that two of the booms snapped in the heat of competitive racing, Sopwith's ardor for the newfangled creation has not dimmed.

The Endeavour departs radically from set yacht construction. She possesses a newly designed triangular boom, perforated set and reefed mainsail, in addition to the flexible boom.

The prize for which millions of dollars have been spent is an ugly, bottomless silver cup, wrought by Victorian silversmiths in 1851, and offered as a prize by the Royal Yacht Squadron of Great Britain. It is officially known as the Hundred Guinea Cup.

Block Island Sound. off Newport, where the races will be run, is the site of the last American Cup contest in 1930.

The races will be held over the regular America's Cup course, starting from a special buoy which has been planted five miles southeast from Brenton's Reef Lightship, in the open sea. Marks will be set out each day, according to the wind. Some will be triangular, others windward or leeward, or vice versa. The distance of each race will be approximately 30 miles, and if neither boat has finished within five and a half hours after the start, the race will be declared off.

During these periods the story of the thrilling contests will be heard by millions of radio fans. Listeners all over the counttry will be in constant touch with the progress of the yachts. Four out of seven races determine the winner. and each race will be broadcast in detail.

In addition to the broadcasts from cutters, airplanes and other vantage points, both NBC and CBS are seriously considering sending several blimps aloft to report the progress of the racers as they speed through the choppy Newport waters.

Radio will do more in eliminating the past difficulty of relaying the relative positions of the racing yachts than any instrument known to science. Heretofore, many errors cropped into the early newspaper reports of the races, but radio, with its numerous vantage points, will report the races accurately, in detail, and on the instant.

Thus. as the crews of the challenger and defender run out spinnaker booms, and balloon jibs fill the air on September 15, radio listeners throughout the world will be assured of all there is to know.

Fred Champion in Radio Guide, Sept. 15, 1934

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