Unusual air race has Bermuda in its sights
Bermuda is vying to be one of several destinations for an airship race right out of the pages of Jules Verne.
Ministers met yesterday with the Commissioner of the World Air League Don Hartsell about hosting the inaugural World Sky Race, featuring blimps, airships and Zeppelins.
While the route for the around-the-world race has not been finalised, Mr Hartsell said Bermuda was in a good geographical position to host one of the final legs, provided that certain technical requirements can be met.
He described the meeting as positive, noting the enthusiasm of those involved, including Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert, Transport Minister Walter Roban, Education Minister Dame Jennifer Smith, Environment Minister Marc Bean and Families Minister Glenn Blakeney.
This was a working meeting, he said. Anybody who needed to be in the room was in the room this morning for several hours. They were not just shaking hands.
Mr Hartsell said that while most blimps seen by the public appear to move very slowly, the airships are actually capable of travelling at speeds of more than 155 knots.
Most of the airships people see today used are for advertising purposes, he explained. They dont want them to move too quickly. Part of what we want to do is take the shells off the tortoises and let them be hares.
Numerous media outlets will cover the 180-day race internationally, including CNN, BBC, ABC, NBC and CBS. Organisers have also partnered with the Eurosport Group to create 18 prime time programmes for their flagship Eurosport channel, which reaches more than 120 million homes across Europe.
The race would be the first international airship competition, and would establish world records for the first team to circumnavigate the globe in a lighter-than-air vessel and the fastest team to circumnavigate the globe in such a vessel.
Hamilton Deputy Mayor Donal Smith, who helped organise the meeting, said the race would help put Bermuda in the international spotlight.
The type of international exposure we could get from this, if we are selected, you couldnt pay for, Mr Smith said. All of the networks will be advertising Bermuda through their coverage. This would clearly benefit us, and we frankly wouldnt have to pay very much.
He also noted that the race could offer Bermudian students a unique educational opportunity.
Working with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), race organisers plan to provide students with a unique curriculum touching on the subjects of geography, history, culture, science and the environment.
The educational component will reach out to students between five and 18 years old around the world from the day the race begins until the day it ends, Mr Smith said.
Jack Kelly, World Air League Advisory Director, compared the event to past Tall Ship races that have visited the Island in recent years, providing spectacular sights and educational opportunities while putting Bermuda in the eyes of the international media.
I have been to Bermuda before and, when I came back through the airport, I remembered just how beautiful Bermuda is. I had to think to myself why it was I hadnt come back more frequently, he said. Thats what we want to do. Acquaint or reacquaint Bermuda with the world.
Speaking following the meeting, Mr Furbert described the presentation as ambitious and intriguing, saying he looks forward to continuing the discussion about the event in Bermuda.
It was flattering and rewarding to see that Mr Hartsell and his organising team are very seriously considering Bermuda as one of the host destinations for this event, he said.
I believe that the event could not only bring great exposure to Bermuda as a tourist destination, but it also promises many additional educational and cultural benefits as well.
Useful website: www.worldskyrace.com.
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