Robert Treharne Jones

As they reach the 100m mark, Paul Castle switches on his microphone to pick up race commentary from the finishing tower, “Welcome to the first heat of the women’s eights. On paper the USA have the strongest team with a number of multiple world champions in their boat…”

Castle is one of the two commentators at the Olympic Rowing Regatta, for the London 2012 Olympic Games along with long time colleague Robert Treharne Jones. Between them they have almost 50 years of commentating experience.

Castle sits in a car that follows each race down the south side of the course following the camera car, where he sits in the back seat reading an annotated list of athletes. He and Treharne Jones take turns commentating on alternate races, which are every ten minutes in these early stages of the regatta. He smoothly relays information from the race to up to 30,000 spectators.  Topics range from descriptions of the racing and facts about the athletes, to commenting on rowing technique and encouraging the crowd to show its support.

At the Olympics there is the extra challenge of explaining the more basic elements of the sport to all the non-rowers who are keen to support their teams.

When asked why he commentates, Treharne Jones says “I like having the best seat in the house… and all I have to do for that is watch the race and talk about it.” “It’s a great way of staying in close touch with a sport we love,” adds Paul, “and importantly it’s part of making rowing more accessible to rowing fans and a wider audience. Imagine a regatta where no-one said anything at all!” International travel, the people you meet and the high quality of the sport are also key benefits of being a commentator.

Talking for multiple races without running out of interesting things to say can be a challenge, so obtaining information can be hard work for a commentator. Treharne Jones started his own database in 2003, which currently contains an impressive 19,000+ entries. He and any other commentators then use this as a starting point to plan their commentaries, spending at least two hours preparing for a day’s racing. They will also mingle in the boatyard with athletes and coaches, talk to staff and read through the media guides that are provided by some countries.

Technology is also an important factor in bringing the races to life, as are the technical support team. In an earlier race when Castle’s commentary cut out 250m before the finish line, the team were quick to diagnose the problem. They replaced the 50kg battery in the boot of the car and got him on the way to the next race, all in a very efficient five minutes. “We’re part of a bigger team that’s easy to forget until something goes wrong,” comments Castle.

And things can go wrong. Castle relates his most embarrassing experience. “In Lucerne (Switzerland) at the World Cup in 2010 we cut the buoys with our propeller [of the commentary launch] and delayed the racing by a very long time.” But this small disaster is very much the exception rather than the rule.

The race draws to a close, the USA dominating the other three crews to cross the line with clear water, advancing straight to the A final. Castle talks Australia, Great Britain and finally Germany across the line. He switches the microphone off, puffs out his cheeks as he exhales: another day’s commentary successfully done.

If you are interested in becoming a rowing commentator, please contact Robert Treharne Jones on – the only prerequisite is a basic knowledge of and great enthusiasm for rowing.