Focus on youth ensures our cup runneth over
You would have to be blind or wilfully ignorant not to appreciate that something is happening. And that something very big is about to happen.
A little short of ten months ago, it was said and written in copious fashion that Bermuda would become the centrepiece of world sailing after the announcement that the 35th America’s Cup would be coming to our shores.
Much has transpired since that dizzying December morning in an undisclosed Manhattan hotel, including a glitzy first visit to Bermuda by the Auld Mug. It was a day not easily forgotten, in that it presented our Island in all its splendour and showed off a public that embraced this “victory” wholeheartedly by the thousands.
That was the preamble.
What has followed has been a public who have been oddly indifferent to “that sailing thing”, with the America’s Cup in danger of becoming a political football. That is the last thing sports fans want: their event, and the significance of it, sucked into a vortex of bile, name calling, electioneering, accusations and threats.
ACBDA Ltd, the group entrusted with selling the America’s Cup to Bermudians, has been fighting an uphill battle, but the likes of chief executive Mike Winfield and president Peter Durhager have remained steadfast in their determination for this to work.
As such, the ante has been raised in recent months and as the stars have come to town — the world-class sailors who are now living among us — so, too, has their message begun to hit home.
It is one thing telling a Bermudian public what is about to happen, even with video aids; quite another showing it to them live and direct. Remember, those who still need convincing are an audience who would look upon the Duke of Cambridge no differently than the boy next door, would have had no truck with Michael Jackson if his moonwalk missed a step and would not have made too much of a fuss about the Beatles.
So we appear to have some preordained right to tell the high and mighty where to get off. It doesn’t make it right, but it is informative to Larry Ellison, Sir Russell Coutts and Co that you have to peel back quite a few layers to get to the hearts of “these onions”. They are no easy sell.
But this week, it is all about to change: something big is about to happen.
This week the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Bermuda takes centre stage. The landscape of the City of Hamilton has been transformed in the past month with banners and flags, and the waterfront has been abuzz with activity on the docks as equipment associated with the event arrives.
By Friday, the eyes of the world will really be on Bermuda.
But first there is the not insignificant business of “the America’s Cup doing St George’s” on Thursday. It is to be hoped that, years after every AC45 and AC48 have departed, the legacy of the Endeavour Community Sailing Programme will live strong.
Coutts is staking much of his Bermuda reputation on this initiative, which is geared towards leaving something behind other than memories. The Endeavour group has been at it since August and the smiles that can be seen on the faces of young Bermudians involved have already made the initiative worthwhile.
The programme ticks two significant boxes: it provides opportunities to sail for youngsters between the ages of 9 and 12 who might not otherwise have them, and it targets St George’s, whose proud maritime history was in danger of being overlooked in the plethora of events focused on Hamilton and the Great Sound.
So while Friday is the official opening day of the international event — October 16 to 18, it says in most areas — Thursday the 15th has the makings of being some day, and a fitting launch pad for the spectacular sport that is to follow.
“St George’s Day” it is being called. More than 500 students have been invited to attend, mostly from St George’s Prep, Harrington Sound, Francis Patton and Elliot Primary. Events will include the official opening of the East Fort at the TS Admiral Somers Building — the home of the Bermuda Sea Cadets — an Endeavour race on the RS Feva boats, and a race in traditional Bermuda Fitted Dinghies between America’s Cup sailors and local sailors.
It is singularly the biggest event to take place in the Olde Towne since Quinell Francis became the Mayor of St George five months ago.
The Endeavour programme is fully funded through 2017, which means parents are not required to make a financial commitment to having their children involved. The budding sailors also will be exposed to interactive learning through the Steam programme, in which they will experience a curriculum that comprises science, technology, engineering, arts and math, as well as water safety knowledge and life skills.
The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is the promise of college sailing internships with Oracle Team USA. Now that is some legacy.
Much of what the Endeavour team and their young charges have been working on for the past few months will be on display in Hamilton on Saturday and Sunday, with the public treated to exhibition sails after the conclusion of the serious racing on each day.
But for the awards ceremony to anoint the World Series Bermuda winner, the Endeavour programme bookends the week’s festivities and provides an instant retort to the unhelpfully flippant “What’s in it for us?”