Amateur radio operators in San Benito, Monterey, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties provide a key communications bridge for the Life Time Sea Otter Classic.
Many do not know as the world’s largest cycling event and consumer exhibit is taking place near Monterey, California. This is the Sea Otter Classic and it just celebrated its 30e release from October 7 to 10. While over 61,000 people enjoyed their races or rides, many dedicated people, including nearly 750 volunteers from Monterey and surrounding counties, worked to make events run smoothly.
Sea Otter was founded in 1991 by Frank Yohannan and recently acquired by Life Time, Inc. After an absence of 2.5 years, the 30e Life Time Sea Otter Classic took place at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The fully open-air outdoor event had perfect weather for the athletes and spectators alike.
Most cycling events offer one or two rides and take months of planning. Life Time Sea Otter Classic is in a whole new world of complexity with hundreds of different events and thousands of racers and riders. Several of these rides and races take athletes to the Carmel Valley and the “backcountry” of the Fort Ord National Monument property, two areas where cell coverage is spotty at best and generally non-existent.
Fortunately, there is a group of dedicated amateur radio operators in the area, who volunteer to help bridge the behind-the-scenes communications gap.
Timothy Takeuchi / W6TST, the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) District Emergency Coordinator for San Benito County, led efforts to cover the Carmel Valley and Fort Ord areas so that athletes were supported during their events. He recruited 23 amateur radio operators from four counties (San Benito, Monterey, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara) to fill all the positions.
On October 9, several hundred athletes took to the roads of the Carmel Valley to enjoy the Carmelo Fondo of nearly 160 km (fondo means in Italian “great stroll”). The team of amateur radio operators set up and used a relay station and repeater on Chews Ridge which provided the best coverage of the route. Several hams traveled the route, followed cyclists in SAG vehicles and coordinated with doctors and bicycle mechanics.
Returning near Laguna Seca, at the Fort Ord Nation Monument, amateur radio operators supported the cross-country events Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. For these difficult trails, three repeaters on a 70-foot tower were deployed on a nearby ridge.
Amateur radio stations have been established around the trails to assist volunteers serving as course marshals and first aiders. Hams are a vital link in bringing local firefighters and ambulances to athletes when needed.
Over the course of the four days, these dedicated operators volunteered more than 500 hours.
Amateur radio operators take these efforts seriously; events like the Life Time Sea Otter Classic provide a great opportunity to practice radio skills so they are ready to help in a real emergency.
For more information on how to become an amateur radio operator, please see the San Benito County Amateur Radio Association website.