Many do not know that the largest bicycling event and expo for consumers takes place nearby in Monterey, California. It is the Sea Otter Classic and it just celebrated its 30th outing Oct. 7-10. While over 61,000 people enjoyed their races or rides, there were many dedicated people, including nearly 750 volunteers from Monterey and surrounding counties, who worked to run the events smoothly.
Sea Otter was started in 1991 by Frank Yohannan and recently acquired by Life Time, Inc. After a 2 ½ year absence, the 30th Life Time Sea Otter Classic took place at the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The completely outdoors, open-air event had perfect weather for the athletes and spectators.
Most cycling the events offer one or two rides and take months of planning. Life Time Sea Otter Classic is in a whole different 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 usually non-existent.
Thankfully, there is a group of dedicated amateur radio operators from the region, who volunteer to help bridge the communications gap behind the scenes.
Timothy Takeuchi/W6TST, the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) District Emergency Coordinator for San Benito County, led the effort to cover the areas of Carmel Valley and Fort Ord so athletes would be supported during their events. He recruited 23 amateur radio operators from four counties (San Benito, Monterey, Santa Cruz, and Santa Clara) to fill all of the posts.
On Oct. 9, several hundred athletes took to the roads of Carmel Valley to enjoy the nearly 100-mile Carmelo Fondo (Fondo is Italian for “big ride”). The team of amateur radio operators set up and used a relay station and repeater on Chews Ridge that gave the best coverage of the route. Several hams drove the route, followed riders in SAG vehicles, and coordinated with medics, and bicycle mechanics.
Back near Laguna Seca, on the Fort Ord Nation Monument, ham radio operators supported cross-country events on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. For these challenging trails, three repeaters on a 70-foot tower were deployed on a nearby ridge.
Ham radio stations were established around the trails to assist volunteers serving as course marshals and first aid medics. The hams are a vital link to get local fire and ambulances to athletes when needed.
Over 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 offer an excellent 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’s website.