Tower announcers keep crowds in the know

By Nick Gandy

One of the many amenities provided to rowing fans at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships is the highly informative tower announcing team providing play by play of the rowing teams gliding across the 2000-meter course at Nathan Benderson Park.

From the southwest corner of the fourth floor of the Benderson Family Finish Tower, Pete O’Hanlon, Jillian O’Mara and Robert Treharne Jones keep a running commentary of the action for the benefit of those in the grandstand seats and the open beach area.

From left, the announcing team of Robert Treharne Jones, Jillian O’Mara and Pete O’Hanlon. These three voices enlighten on-site spectators as well as webcast viewers of the 2019 World Rowing Under 23 Championships. Photo by Nick Gandy

Besides who’s leading and crossing the finish line in their respective places, the knowledgeable rowing trio describe the action in layman’s terms for those who may not be familiar with the ins and outs of the sport of rowing.

They inform fans of stroke average of the teams as they progress through 500, 1000 and 1500 meters and what problems the rowers may be experience, such as “crab,” when an oar gets caught in the water. They offer explanations of how the teams work together for the best performance and how the first place teams are rowing in “clear water,” meaning no wakes from other boats.

O’Hanlon and Jones are from the United Kingdom and Jones is a native of Seattle, Wash., now living in Amsterdam.  The tower announcing team are consultants for World Rowing who travel from site to site to share their knowledge with spectators at rowing events over the public address system.

After this week’s event at Nathan Benderson Park, the trio will travel to Tokyo, Japan, and Austria for events in the next few weeks. 

“We have busy summer schedules,” said O’Mara, a collegiate rower at Bucknell University.

In their travels, they experience a variety of facilities in which to apply their trade. O’Hanlon, the lead announcer of the team, raved about his time in the Nathan Benderson Park tower.

“Look at all this space we have,” said O’Hanlon, as he spread his arms wide. “This is the only place we’ve been to where I have a remote device on my belt and a headset microphone.  These guys give me a hard time because I have enough room to pace back and forth while calling the races.”

The senior member of the announcing team, Robert Treharne Jones, has been involved in rowing for 49 years and has been a member of 14 clubs as a players, coach and administrator over the years.

As O’Hanlon closed out the day’s activity on Friday, he mentioned in his smooth tone and British accent, how the tail wind blowing was responsible for several records being broken.  He gave a final nod to “whoever was doing the rain dance to keep the skies clear,” for the two-hour duration of the races, after a delay for two and a half hours from the original start time of 9:00 a.m.

The trio returns to their microphones on Saturday and Sunday to better educate the Sarasota/Bradenton rowing community with their years of experience in the sport.  It’s a definite plus for Nathan Benderson Park.