Bernadine Oliver-Kerby and boats are not normally a great combination. The TV presenter and radio journalist doesn’t have good sea legs, thanks to a tendency to suffer from motion sickness, and admits that even a trip on a sturdy ferry can be enough to turn her green.
But at the moment, boats – or racing yachts in particular – are at the forefront in her mind as she takes on a new job hosting a TV show on the America’s Cup.
Bernadine (45) is presenting America’s Cup – Race Day Reviews for Sky Sport, which will be a round-up of events out of the water each race day, which started with the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers.
When publicising the show means a trip on a yacht out into Auckland’s Waitemata for a photo shoot, Bernadine’s up for it, even if it might mean losing her breakfast overboard.
Luckily, it is a calm day and with Kiwi sailing legend Penny Whiting at the helm, the trip is smooth and there’s no hint of seasickness.
“Unfortunately, I get sick in cars, so can you imagine what it is like with boats,” says Bernadine. “I grew up in Hamilton where we’ve got a river and a lake, so sailing was not an extra curricular activity of mine. Then I moved to Auckland, surrounded by water, and there are times you just have to get out there on the water.
“I once did a kayak trip to Rangitoto with friends and was actually seasick on the kayak. It took a swim in the ocean for me to come right so I could climb Rangitoto, run back down, have another swim and commence the long paddle to shore again. I was very pleased when that was over.”
She shudders as she recalls going out on a racing yacht with American Paul Cayard back in 1994, when he was preparing for the 1995 America’s Cup.
“It was for a story on Moro Sports Extra and the first time I had ever been on one of those big boats. You don’t just stand there, you have to balance and it was terrifying. You are literally balancing on the back of the boat as the extra crew member. You are told not to move and by God, you are not going to move because you are so scared the wind is going to suck you off the side. What an experience that was!
“There’s no way you’d get me on one of those America’s Cup racing yachts now – they go like rockets!”
Fortunately, being involved with the America’s Cup coverage is done from the safety and stability of a TV studio. Bernadine is joined by sailing experts for each show to look back on the day’s events in Bermuda and explain to viewers what is going on.
“It’s going to be so exciting,” enthuses Bernadine. “We Kiwis love America’s Cup campaigns, even if we don’t actually know a lot about yachting. Even the biggest landlubbers just can’t help getting on board. There’s always so much excitement.
“We’re expecting lots of crash and bash, off-water feuds and name-calling. We are waiting to see who is going to emerge as the Dennis Connor of the competition – so far, it seems to be [Brit] Ben Ainslie with the ‘love tap’ he gave the Kiwi boat early on. I can’t wait.”
Bernadine is delighted to be once again covering sports on TV. Although her on-screen career actually started with a kids’ TV show, Life, she got picked up by TVNZ to cover netball in 1991 and spent 14 years in the sports department. She then moved to the news department, where she ended up reading weekend news bulletins and covering for other newsreaders.
“I always had an inkling that I would gravitate back to sport,” says Bernadine, who was made redundant from TVNZ last year after 25 years with the company.
“It was really lovely when Sky Sport got in touch about doing something for them. I went for a meeting with the head of sport not knowing what it was going to be about and wondering if it could be netball or rugby, which I have covered a lot in the past.
“I was hoping it would be something different, so I was pleased – and surprised – when it turned out to be the yachting. I’ve been learning a lot about it, although I won’t be the one providing the expert opinions – we’re getting in people who really know their stuff to do that.”
Bernadine says she wasn’t really looking for more TV work after she left TVNZ – she already has a full-on job as the breakfast newsreader for radio station Newstalk ZB, which she has been doing for 12 years.
“I didn’t really feel like I needed to fill a gap because I was only doing TV at weekends, but when this opportunity came along, I couldn’t say no, it’s such a great thing to do. I did have some other approaches, which was encouraging but I thought it was important to do something that felt like it was the right fit.”
And going to Sky Sport was particularly nice because some of the staff in the sports department are people she once worked with at TVNZ.
“Lots of them have ended up there, including crews I went to the Olympics with and covered netball with for years. These are people who really know their stuff, so it is great to be working with them again – it feels like a bit of a homecoming.”
The days she works on the Sky show after finishing her radio work are full-on, but she’s enjoying it.
“I’m the sort of person who thrives on being busy. I’m always on the go, that’s just how I am wired. I’ve got lots of energy and I know I won’t always have that, so I think why not use that while I have it?”
Her breakfast show shift means she’s up at about 4.15am and although she loves the job, Bernadine admits the early start does take a toll.
“You do feel like you are constantly jetlagged but it is amazing how your body adjusts. Luckily, I only need a few hours sleep a night. I don’t usually go to bed until 11, so I get around five hours.
“If I go to bed early, I just lie there looking at the ceiling and I’m always awake before the alarm goes off.”
The mum-of-two says having two babies who suffered from reflux has helped her to adapt to getting by on little sleep. Both Maisey (9) and Scarlett (7) had the condition, and Bernadine would walk for hours each night holding the girls upright to ease their pain.
“It was years of hell – in fact, Scarlett only started sleeping through the night at six, a year ago – and I used to pace up and down the carpet so much, it would get hot. I’d have to try to find a cool patch to walk on.
“But it was just one of those things you go through and it passes – eventually! – then you move on to the next thing.”
She’s not one for naps, there’s too much else to do.
“I’ll nap when I’m dead,” she says. “Just don’t take me to the movies in the middle of the day. That would become an $18 nap.”
Thanks to her endless energy, Bernadine manages to fit in coaching both her daughter’s netball teams and always makes time for family activities. She and her husband, police officer Mark Lendrum, are very much hands-on parents and aware the girls are growing so quickly.
“We know that it won’t be long before they are asking to be dropped off down the road from school because having a parent there is uncool! They become independent so fast. We want to maximise that lovely relationship when they still want to hang around with you.”
The other thing Bernadine also makes sure she finds time for is charity work. She is an ambassador for the Child Cancer Foundation and also does everything she can to support Motor Neurone Disease causes. Her father Grant died of the condition, which causes muscles to stop working until you can no longer move, speak or breathe.
“It is the most cruel disease you will ever come across,” says Bernadine. “Your muscles go and you are trapped inside your body. With my dad, you could see his eyes lighting up and see that he was desperate to be involved in conversations, but he couldn’t be. When someone you love has had to go through such a terrible thing, you just feel you have to do your bit to fly the flag.
“At the moment there is no cure, but who knows what could happen if more resources were put into finding one, or even medication that can help. There needs to be some form of hope because at the moment there is nothing."
While she’d love to support other great causes, she does realise that she can’t take on too much, thanks to her already full life.
“I’m pretty bad at saying no to things,” admits Bernadine. “I would love to do more. But I feel very blessed that I get to do what I do, that I can do it and that I’ve ended up with so many great opportunities.”
America’s Cup – Race Day Review will screen at 8.30pm on Sky Sport 4 (Channel 54) every day there is racing. The America’s Cup will be held from June 18-28.