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Hundreds celebrate Endeavour opening

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Endeavour Sailors .(Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The initiative to nurture Bermuda’s next generation of sailors was launched yesterday, perhaps fittingly, from the Olde Towne that started the Island’s rich maritime history some four centuries ago.

Hundreds turned out in St George’s to celebrate the official opening of the America’s Cup Endeavour Programme, which is anticipated to leave a lasting legacy. Gombey Dancers opened the day’s events with an impressive performance in King’s Square before part of the crowd made its way to the TS Admiral Somers Building — home to the St George’s unit of the Bermuda Sea Cadets Corps as well as the new official home of the America’s Cup Endeavour Community Sailing Programme.

New Zealand sailor Sir Russell Coutts, whose vision it was to introduce the programme to Bermuda, looked particularly buoyed as people began gathering for the opening ceremony.

He told The Royal Gazette: “When we first started talking about this project we didn’t know what it would become but it has turned out better than any of us had hoped already.

“It is amazing how many organisations have come out and partnered with it and how far they have come in such a short period of time in terms of getting all the boats together, revamping, getting the course modules set, hiring the staff and so forth. It has been a big undertaking and they are already up and operating.

“It is one thing to have an idea but it’s a credit to the operational people who have taken an idea and made it happen.

“This is just the start and I think the Endeavour Programme will grow significantly from here and the objective is to allow all these kids a different experience and a different way of learning. Some of them wouldn’t get this opportunity otherwise.”

Dressed to impress in their sailors’ uniforms, the Sea Cadets welcomed dignitaries and race officials with a special drill and ceremony.

St George’s mayor Quinell Francis opened the speeches to thank the America’s Cup and say: “As we feel the buzz and excitement surrounding this event, it is great to have the town participating in the festivities.”

Michael Dunkley took to the podium to thank Sir Russell for having the confidence in Bermuda to host America’s Cup and then addressed Minister for Economic Development Grant Gibbons whose vision helped secure the Island as host.

“Minister Gibbons — when we were sat around the Cabinet table months ago and you said there was an opportunity, some of us looked at you with scepticism, some of us looked at you with enthusiasm. We are here today because of the vision and leadership of Minister Gibbons and [ACBDA chairman] Peter Durhager. This is truly a remarkable event. I believe this programme will have a much longer legacy after that.”

After the official business was complete, bright sunshine and favourable winds presented the perfect conditions for the first ever Endeavour races which were launched from the beach at Convict’s Bay. Young participants had the opportunity to sail with world class America’s Cup sailors. As the young Endeavour students returned to the finishing line they gathered on the beach for photos and interviews.

Zakai Wolffe, 12, of Dellwood Middle School, who has previously sailed with the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, said: “I decided to get involved because there are not many things to do in Bermuda and I love the water. I am following my daddy’s footsteps because he really loves boats. I would love to do sailing professionally and to sail with America’s Cup. Sailing is a great opportunity for you to get a scholarship to go to college and go for it.”

Berkeley Institute student Tre Maxwell, 16, got to sail with Oracle sailor Rome Kirby during his race. He said: “This is a big opportunity — you get to see the America’s Cup people and it is a lot of fun. You learn new skills, there is lots of physical work and it’s a really good experience with your friends.”

Gabrielle Brackstone, 12, sailed with Artemis sailor Ayden Menzies and came first in the RS Feva class. She has been sailing for about six years with the St George’s Mini Yacht Club. She said: “It’s great because I got to sail with a professional sailor. He told to tighten the main sheet before you go so you get a bigger head start.”

Another race saw America’s Cup sailors competing with Bermudians in Bermuda-fitted dinghies. Sadly, the Bermudians capsized and the AC sailors beat them at their own game.

The day’s festivities continued back at King’s Square with music, vendors and the grand arrival of the America’s Cup itself — also known as the Auld Mug.

Endeavour sailors Gianni Santucci, 10, and Donovan Dyer Trott, 9. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Endeavour Sailors .(Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Endeavour Programme: students from East End Primary School on Ordnance Island. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)