The America’s Cup in the summer of 1983 was not only the longest and most intensive assignment of my career—one that went on day and night for four months—but it entailed total immersion in a sporting, social, historical, and political pageant that was played out in real time on an international stage. I was fresh off my Nieman year, which had underscored for me the inestimable value of deep research and the overriding need for balance in shedding light on both sides of the bitter divide over the America’s Cup. Furthermore, Sports Illustrated writer Carleton Mitchell’s book, “Summer of the Twelves,” his insider’s account of the 1958 defense of the America’s Cup, allowed me to see how I could tackle my own America’s Cup coverage.
A worldwide audience was drawn into a great unfolding story that had everything, including the emotional roller-coaster ride of a cliff-hanger result, the toppling of a High Society icon, and the unlikely heroics of a scruffy, unlettered design genius. As both a live radio broadcaster and as a journalist reporting for Australia’s leading metropolitan newspaper, I found myself communicating with a global audience, many of whom on the far side of the world remained glued to their transistor radios taken to bed. It was the only time in my life that I received what might be called “fan mail”—postal sacks with thousands of letters telling me how much listeners and readers appreciated the front-row seat I’d given them. Even today, 35 years later, people still stop me in the street to say how much they valued those broadcasts and reports (“Newport Goes Mad for Bond”). It was a humbling experience and one that also allowed me to appreciate the weighty responsibility we bear as communicators.