Basel: Captain of the Call

Clyde Basel

Clyde Basel

Saturday marked the milestone of a quarter of a century behind the microphone in the commentary box for one of South Africa’s foremost race callers, Phumelela Sales and Marketing Executive, Clyde Basel.

It was at Newmarket on 19 October 1988 when the starry eyed racing fanatic sat tentatively with a slightly dry mouth as he adjusted his seat and glued his eyes to the binoculars, before calling the rather appropriately named Opportunity Knocks home.

“Thankfully Ormond Ferraris’ Opportunity Knocks drew off to win rather easily, so I wasn’t exactly under pressure at that first call,” he said, when recounting the lifechanging event this week. But that first call was an emotional moment in many ways for the young man. His brother Keith, a jockey, had been one of 24 people killed in the Hennenman air disaster just six months earlier.

Basel could not have imagined in his wildest dreams that the delivery of a voice recording of one of his home commentaries to Ed Andrews of the Witwatersrand RAC, would lead to a varied career, culminating in an executive position with South Africa’s major racing operator. At the time Peter Duffield and Graeme Hawkins were the senior commentators, although health problems were dogging Duffield’s voice and this created an opportunity for Basel. Does he recall anything significant about his first race?

“Well, I dropped the tape off, got the telephone call and before I knew it the race was over. It went well, I thought. It was only a midweek meeting but the crowd wasn’t exactly small! And I remember the late Danie Burger’s runners finished second and third. For the rest, racing has been very good to me and the time has flown by,” he said.

Due to work pressure, Basel has allowed his commentating commitments to take a back seat recently, but keeps his hand in when time permits.

“It is a job where one needs to keep the line in the water, otherwise rust can creep in. But there are a few really outstanding young guys coming through the ranks, so there is plenty of depth of talent out there ,” he said.

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