Smith’s delight at Endeavour experience

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  • Strong bond: Ahzai and his mother talk to each other daily

    Strong bond: Ahzai and his mother talk to each other daily

Chermega Smith’s 12-year-old son Ahzai is experiencing the trip of a lifetime in New Zealand.

The America’s Cup Endeavour student left Bermuda earlier this month to travel to the southern hemisphere, where he has three regattas on his schedule before returning to Bermuda.

Ahzai, joined by Christopher Raymond, also 12, are travelling with Leah Collis, the America’s Cup Endeavour instructor.

Mrs Smith said she and her husband Paul were overjoyed to learn that Ahzai had been chosen for this experience. They received an e-mail from Tom Herbert-Evans, community sailing manager for America’s Cup Event Authority, and couldn’t believe it.

“We both went outside to Ahzai and shared the news with him,” she said. “He said, ‘Me, New Zealand? You guys have got to be kidding me’.

“We said, ‘Nope, read the e-mail’. After he read it, he was excited and was still trying to wrap his head around the thought of sailing in a country half way around the world.”

Asked how she felt knowing he would be so far away for almost a month, Mrs Smith said: “I had no apprehension with Ahzai travelling to New Zealand for a month. However, Paul was a bit unsure and tried to encourage me to travel with him.

“Once we met with the AC Endeavour Team of Tom [Herbert-Evans], Leah Collis, Alejandra Mato and Sir Russell Coutts, that made both Paul and I feel even more at ease that this would be a great experience for Ahzai.

“After discussing it a bit more, Paul and I came to the agreement that Ahzai should fully immerse himself in this opportunity without a ‘nagging’ parent by his side.”

Mrs Smith said her husband assured Ahzai that they were only a phone call away and he could call if ever he missed them. She said her other son Asa started crying at the airport but pulled it together when his godfather Ricky came to the airport to see Ahzai off.

“He was able to distract Asa and put a smile on his face. I’m glad because I was on the tip of the tears,” said Mrs Smith, who speaks to her son daily.

“Ahzai is a quiet child so Paul and I do most of the talking. We have also encouraged our family members and his godparents to keep in contact with him while in New Zealand to help reduce the homesick feeling, which we only heard of once that he missed home and was really craving some of my cake! That was really funny.

“That particular night, we were a little worried about him but the worry quickly disappeared after speaking with coach Leah. We were very pleased with his first regatta results as he has had little experience in the O’pen Bic.”

She continued: “He was extremely excited with the results as well. Ahzai is loving all things about New Zealand at the moment. We have asked for pictures of some of his adventures but he keeps saying, ‘Mommy, I don’t have too much time to take pictures, I’m busy doing stuff’.

“That makes me happy. We keep in contact daily via iMessage, voice notes and the occasional FaceTime call. The day he wasn’t feeling his best I swear I sent him 20 messages! When he woke up and messaged me back, he said, ‘Mommy, you don’t have to blow my phone up’.”

Mrs Smith said she encourages her son to do his best, stay focused on his school work, enjoy every moment and most importantly to pray.

“Overall, Ahzai, Paul and I are humbled and forever grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said.

Ahzai and Christopher return to Bermuda on January 28.

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Published Jan 21, 2017 at 10:00 am (Updated Jan 21, 2017 at 9:46 am)

Smith’s delight at Endeavour experience

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