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Youth can open Bermuda’s eyes to AC35

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It has long been said that the youth are our greatest asset. When adults fumble over themselves with maddening consistency, it is to the fresh-faced that we turn for new perspective.

When those whom we look up to give us little to be proud of, it is in the younger generation that we store hope for better days ahead. When newspapers can find little among older folks that is innocent to splash with in a photographic sense, it is to the innocence of youth that we look.

So, with befuddlingly large segments of the community still in a state of ambivalence about the America's Cup, it is fitting that young people could be the group that tips the balance and crystallises in the minds of all Bermudians what a fantastic opportunity to shine awaits.

The Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series arrives in two months, after stops in Portsmouth and Gothenburg, but Dockyard was abuzz with activity on Saturday as 50 hopefuls between the ages of 19 and 23 were put through their paces in the first trial to make Team Bermuda for the Red Bull Youth America's Cup. That is the event that will precede the America's Cup Match in 2017 — between Oracle Team USA and a challenger to be determined — and which made its debut in San Francisco two years ago to such great acclaim.

It is also the event that provided a quite fantastic platform for Peter Burling to announce himself to the world. He led New Zealand to victory in the inaugural event and now has made the big step up to the senior ranks, where he has already acquitted himself commendably in finishing second for Emirates Team New Zealand in the truncated World Series opener in Portsmouth. Might Bermuda have a Peter Burling in its midst? Not likely, but what an opportunity that has been presented before our young people? Remember, it is not those of a sailing background alone who were invited to trials, but those from all walks of life and from all sporting disciplines.

For the requirement to make the grade to get on a one-design foiling AC45 catamaran is not maritime pedigree alone, but raw, natural ability that can be worked on with a view to producing a Peter Burling down the road.

As Jimmy Spithill, the Oracle skipper, said of the Youth America's Cup initiative two years ago: “This is exactly what I hoped would happen when we first started talking about the Red Bull Youth America's Cup.

There are so many good young sailors out there who just need to know there is a way forward; a path to get into the America's Cup. Now with the Red Bull Youth America's Cup, it's clear that there is.”

So on Saturday in Dockyard, under the careful watch of Team Bermuda staff, they swam, they simulated as grinders, they cycled on the stationary bikes, they rowed on the ergs, they performed strength tests.

Another trial, or “combine” to borrow from American phraseology that has become so invasive in Bermuda, will be held on September 26, after which 18 will be selected for a period of intensive training and coaching.

The end result will be a team under the Bermuda banner racing in the Great Sound in June 2017, just before the start of the most significant series of races in world sailing, when all eyes will be on our island.

A team comprised possibly from all walks of life. From black and white. From rich and poor. From yacht club and “off de rocks”. From Front Street and “back-a-town”. From One Bermuda Alliance and Progressive Labour Party. From Bermuda.

The America's Cup is not the be-all and end-all as the saviour for our social and economic woes; no one could be so naive to believe that, for there is much more work to be done. But to not stand behind our own, especially our young people, regardless of ethnicity; to not show that we can get behind an event that comes laden with possibilities, more good than bad; to not show that we can stand as one when the eyes of the world are upon us is to not be a Bermuda at all.

Rowing certainties: Mackenzie Cooper, 20, front, puts his back into the ergs section of the Red Bull Youth America's Cup trial
Life's a grind: Kelsey Durham, 21, on the winch test at the Red Bull Youth America's Cup trial in Dockyard

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Published August 10, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated August 10, 2015 at 2:07 am)

Youth can open Bermuda’s eyes to AC35

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