Roth Challenge - triathlon with DYNACORD power

Leg two: an 180 km bike ride, with continuous commentary for spectators lining the route

•„ The Roth Challenge is regarded by triathletes worldwide as one of the most challenging and exciting competitions the sport has to offer
•„ With 2,500 individual athletes and 500 squads from over 50 different countries competing this year, watched by over 120,000 spectators, the 2010 Roth Challenge consolidated the international reputation of the event
•„ Barowski AG provided the sound reinforcement, using Cobra-4 line arrays from DYNACORD to great effect

A triathlon demands everything from the men and women brave enough to compete in it: the stamina, talent, and willpower needed to swim 3.8 kilometres and cycle 180—all before running a full 42.2-kilometre marathon—beggars belief. Yet more and more athletes are seeking to conquer the event, with more and more spectators eager to encourage them—especially at the Roth Challenge in Franconia, an event sponsored by the German radio station Bayern 3 that has attained a cult status in a competition matched only by that of the Iron Man competition in Hawaii.

This year, 2,500 triathletes competing individually and 500 relay squads from over 50 different countries lined up at the start, with more than 120,000 spectators lining the route to cheer them on. DJs, live music, the legendary ‘Finish Line’ party, and a closing firework display added to the fun, creating a party-like atmosphere among spectators that contrasted strangely with the solid determination of competitors in the throes of the gruelling eight-hour ordeal.


The need to provide spectators lining the route with intelligible live commentary and information on the intermediate placing and times of the various teams and athletes, as well as music before, during, and after the competition, meant that the quality of the sound reinforcement was of crucial importance to the success of the event. That is why the organizers chose Nuremberg-based firm Barowski AG to do the job right for the second year running. Providing even coverage for such a vast area was no mean feat, and required a considerable outlay in equipment: over 100 DYNACORD and Electro-Voice enclosures and speaker systems for starters, with Cobra-4 line-arrays from DYNACORD also occupying a central role. As well as at the start of the swimming leg, where 6 Cobra Tops, 4 Cobra Fars and 2 Cobra PWH Subs were deployed, and the finish area, where there were 4 Cobra Tops, 2 Cobra Fars and 6 Cobra PWH Subs, the extremely compact system also lent its precision (and oodles of SPL) to the Bayern 3 party when the smoke cleared. “The Cobra-4 system has an impressive sound, with plenty of pressure in the low frequency range as well as bite up top,” says Barowski AG’s MD Michael Barowski. “The sonic image that results is of very high resolution; furthermore, the Cobra-4 holds plenty of power in reserve. Even hard-bitten sound engineers like myself find it hard to remain objective in our appraisal of a system that good. We are inclined to rave...” But as well as the subjective impression, there are concrete advantages that are easily detailed: “The modular structure of the system, for one thing,” says Barowski, ”allows you to configure it in a wide variety of ways to take account of the geometry and acoustics of almost all venues and the requirements of almost all events. In this way, perfect sound can be guaranteed in most locations.”

Spectators present at the start of the swimming leg of the Roth Challenge were given an impressive demonstration of its capabilities, as the seven-man team of sound technicians and their assistants negotiated two very high hurdles of their own: “One problem was the vast area to be covered,” says Barowski, “and the other was the need for a high level of intelligibility. The solution was to place the enclosures centrally and point them outwards in all four directions, radiating in each case a distance of 150 metres.” Trees and a large marquee obstructing the sound waves in one area further complicated the problem. Nonetheless, with an array of three Cobra-4 Far enclosures and one Top it was soon solved.

Providing sound reinforcement for spectators watching the cycling leg at the Solarer Berg also called for long throws and a high level of intelligibility. An Electro-Voice XLD system proved here to be the ideal choice. “We had eleven enclosures facing uphill and three providing nearfield coverage for the spectators downtown,” reports Barowski. To enhance the sonic image in the low frequency range, four XS212 subwoofers were integrated into the sound design. For homogeneous sound to be achieved, it was necessary for the arrays to be flown at a considerable height. “Our simulations revealed that we needed to suspend the arrays at a height of 11 metres, so we did, and the result was, as predicted, very even coverage.”

Careful planning and a great deal of hard work was involved, but in the end it was worth it. “The members of the Bayern 3 band and the head of the team of organizers all thanked us for our good work,” says Barowski. And the contract to provide the sound reinforcement for the Roth Challenge 2011, not surprisingly, is already in the bag…