This may be the longest correction this magazine has ever published. Because of a typographical mistake, the story on America's Cup skipper Dennis Conner that ran in last week's issue of SI bore the wrong byline. The story was written not by senior writer Craig Neff, whose name appeared on it, but by senior writer Sarah Ballard, who has provided all of our Cup coverage since 1983, including the article on page 86 of this issue. Ballard's coverage of the current Cup competition involves the longest on-location assignment in the history of the magazine. She arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia, on Oct. 15 and will remain in that town of 28,000 until the final race sometime in early February.
Ballard has enjoyed the assignment. Though the press corps in Fremantle may swell to some 2,000 at its peak in late January, a hard core of some three dozen expatriate sailing writers and photographers—American, French, Italian, Canadian, British and New Zealander—has been with Ballard in Australia from the start. "We are like a colonial outpost, or castaways on a desert island," she says. "Except that we are all so happy to be here. Everybody just loves the place."
So Ballard's adjustment to life in her Western Australian America's Cup bubble has been delightfully easy. Fremantle's endless sunshine, its freshly refurbished Victorian buildings and its great distance from the cosmopolitan centers of the world (12,000 miles from New York City) give it a sweet, otherworldly quality. As Ballard says, "It's like a long summer in a movie version of a perfect small town."
Nevertheless, coverage of the multimillion-dollar racing machines and their crews has sometimes been daunting. "The more money a syndicate has, the tighter its security and the more secrets it tries to keep," she says. "Some of the syndicates make you feel like a burglar just for asking to interview someone."
With three months behind them and still a month to go, the entrenched members of the Fremantle press contingent are experiencing unease. "There is a stately pace to events in Fremantle that has had the effect of tranquilizing, at least to a degree, even the most fiendishly competitive journalists here," says Ballard. "Now we are watching a big influx of newcomers arriving to cover the last few weeks of the campaign. They hit the ground running, and the atmosphere is changing."
This means journalistic competition is reaching a frenzied pitch. We're glad to have Ballard on our side. And in the future, we'll try to give her all the credit she deserves.
Ballard's happy in the "perfect small town."