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Brave Team BDA have made believers of us all

Team BDA take their bow

The original idea that Bermuda could host the America’s Cup was fanciful. Laughed at by some. Fanciful turned to brilliant once our little island’s bid was accepted by the crème de la crème of international sailing. And no one can doubt that, 26 days in — despite the occasionally insidious bitching and moaning — the experience has been wholly positive in and around Cross Island, on the Great Sound and in the business district of Hamilton.

Jimmy Spithill and his Oracle Team USA outfit may yet pull a rabbit out of the hat and stage a repeat of their outrageous comeback against Emirates Team New Zealand in 2013.

Likely not — unless Oracle can score an audience with Hermes, the Greek god of speed, the “Auld Mug” will fall into Kiwi hands on Sunday; Monday at the latest.

However the narrative of the America’s Cup Match presented by Louis Vuitton plays itself out, the feel-good story of this wondrous month of activity has to be that of nine young Bermudians who knew precious little about each other 18 months ago.

A mere handful of them had previous sailing experience. To first select them from 40 aspirants and then sequester them as a tightly knit group, having had two of their brightest among the original 11 whisked away by challengers SoftBank Team Japan — lest we forget Emily Nagel and Connor Astwood — took fantastic man management and no little skill in the coaching department.

For these were not the easiest times and there was disappointment for many along the way. The sacrifices made either by those who interrupted their studies to commit to the effort or those who quit their jobs to give this sailing thing a proper go are laudable.

Then to witness them come across the line first in the very first race of the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup Finals? You just couldn’t make it up.

To put this into a global context, the likely winning helmsman from the 35th America’s Cup was sailing in this very event four years ago, hoping soon to make his mark among the big boys. And by the time Peter Burling arrived on our shores this spring, his was a name that could not be overlooked — having been an Olympic champion, a four-times world champion and a World Sailor of the Year since his “Hello, world” moment in San Francisco.

So the youngsters Bermuda came up against on June 12 and 13, and then on Tuesday and yesterday were good. Darn good. And we mixed it with them, doing so to such good effect that finishing bottom of a congested eight-team table is no cause for our young heroes to feel down on themselves.

For theirs was a fantastic effort, getting out of the blocks quickly on both days of the finals — a meritorious third to go with the bullet on Tuesday — before the greater experience and seaworthiness of the more established nations took hold.

It has been said that the one genuine legacy of this America’s Cup in Bermuda is the Endeavour programme, and that is correct. But Team BDA deserve to be another. The support they received at the America’s Cup Village this week suggested as much, as did the public get-togethers.

The country has fallen in line in support of these young people’s dreams, debunking the negativity that cast a stain on the build-up — in some circles for political gains — that this is an event merely for rich white men. Three targets wrapped into one. Of the lot only one stuck, with no women on the boats of any of the teams, senior or junior.

That may be one for future consideration. And one is vividly reminded of the look on Cecilia Wollmann’s face when she learnt that she was being overlooked for the one position on the boat that best suited her build and physical capabilities. It was one of the more tear-jerking moments of the ESPN Films-like documentary production that takes you behind the scenes with Team BDA.

Must-see viewing on Red Bull TV. If for no other reason than to discover how Mustafa Ingham went into this experience with his eyes wide open as an airport luggage handler and has now come away as a rock star — role models the lot of them.

So legacy? How do we keep this going?

The biggest spanner in the works is Emirates Team New Zealand. Should the Kiwis continue on their seemingly inexorable march towards redemption, after the utter collapse from 8-1 up in 2013, it will be back to the drawing board, with the America’s Cup Event Authority marching to the tune of an entirely different drummer and Oracle possibly less in a position to play big brother.

Peter Burling and best mate Blair Tuke win everywhere they go and have been doing so since they were of driving age.

It will take something of an Herculean event for Spithill and Oracle to tip them over, so Hermes on speed dial may not be enough.

Anyone got a contact for a double date with Poseidon?