For years, folks who race in the Annapolis Yacht Club Wednesday Night Races have enjoyed watching themselves on TV almost as soon as they got back to the dock. They can thank the irrepressible sailing pitchman Tucker Thompson for that. Back in 2001, he cofounded the local, see-it-now video company T2PTV.
The show proved successful enough to propel on-air host Thompson to bigger things. Tucker left T2P in 2013 to pursue new projects. He’ll be busy this month doing live commentary and video at sailing’s biggest event, the America’s Cup in Bermuda, for which he’s been the public host full-time for two years.
His longtime partner and the cofounder of their company, Bruce Nairn, operates the cameras and runs the business end of the operation, but what do you do when the on-air talent takes a powder?
Fortunately, new talent was waiting in the wings. When you see the Boatyard Bar & Grill video boat bashing around the Severn River this summer chasing racers, the smiling face at the wheel and on camera will be Thompson’s estimable replacement, Ashley Love, who learned her trade on the run and jumped in when the opportunity arose four summers ago.
Love, 32, gave up a job as an assistant sailing coach at Hobart & William Smith College in upstate New York to sign on as an unpaid intern for T2PTV in 2008. “I knew right away it was for me,” she said, “so I just kept showing up.”
“She wouldn’t leave” says Nairn. Adds Thompson, “She turned up on the doorstep and said, ‘I’ll work for free until you can pay me.’ Taking her on was the best decision we ever made.”
“Eventually they gave me an old laptop and a small salary,” Love says, and she started cutting and editing, producing, shooting, talking, watching. There was no better place to learn than on weekly productions of Wednesday Night Races.
“Your hair’s on fire the whole time,” she says. “It’s down and dirty, and it all happens really quickly.”
Those who watch the videos over beer and burgers at the Annapolis Yacht Club or the Boatyard Bar & Grill an hour or so after racing ends get to see themselves on a 10-minute loop with music, commentary, and graphics. Putting that package together is no mean feat.
“It’s as close to live TV as you can get,” says Love. “You can’t make mistakes.” Whatever she says and whatever Nairn shoots is what appears on screen. The system was devised by Thompson and Nairn in the early days, for good reason. “We didn’t know how to edit and we didn’t know how to produce, so we just basically went live,” says Thompson.
With pressure on to get things right, Love’s background helps. She knows sailing, having grown up racing dinghies in Barnegat Bay, NJ. She later sailed E Scows in national competition with her father, Douglas, who was an economist in New York. And she raced Lasers competitively in the summers during college years at the University of Richmond, which lacks a sailing team. Love managed a mid-pack finish at the Laser Radial Worlds in Japan in 2009. “I was great on the starts and upwind,” she says, “but they had nine-foot waves there, and I got clobbered downwind.”
Meantime, she learned about the performance arts and writing, studying theater and English at Richmond, where she worked on stage and frequently sang the national anthem solo at sports events. She satisfied her competitive urge by taking up Ultimate Frisbee, including winning a gold medal at the 2008 Beach Ultimate Worlds in Brazil.
These days she maintains her sailing skills by crewing on the local J/80 Courageous (the team competes all over the country) and 505s, as well as match racing on a national level.
Wednesday Nights are now just a small part of what T2PTV does. The company has contracts with the Naval Academy Alumni Association, with real estate companies for videos of high-end offerings, and with a number of regattas including Quantum Key West Race Week. Love edited “Eastport 21403,” a film about life in Eastport for Dick Franyo, the Boatyard Bar & Grill owner, and made three documentaries about sailing to Cuba, which you can watch on t2p.tv. The aim is to continue to diversify, Nairn said, since sailing is a small market.
But AYC’s Wednesday Night Races will never be abandoned, according to both Love and Nairn. It’s where it all began, and it’s still among the hardest things they do. “We promised AYC and the Boatyard we’d always give them a show. It’s a wonderful training ground,” says Love. “It’s where I learned how to commentate, produce a show, and drive a boat all at the same time."
by Angus Phillips