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Haven for children to learn about boats

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We love the water: Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill, Sir John Swan, Governor George Fergusson and Sir Russell Coutts with students from the Endeavour programme (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The western base for the America’s Cup youth programme, with its finishing coat of bright pink, has been tough to miss lately by the Dockyard waterside.

The haven for local youngsters to learn about boats and take to the water got its official opening last night, with a traditional roof-wetting ceremony.

Built from converted shipping containers bequeathed by the previous America’s Cup, the community sailing programme facility is testament to support from across the community.

“The kids love it,” said Sir Russell Coutts, chief executive officer for Oracle Team USA. “It’s given all these young people a unique opportunity to experience the water, but it’s also getting them to work together. It’s a fabulous facility.”

The programme got going in March, but last night Governor George Fergusson and former premier Sir John Swan were among guests to witness the centre’s formal unveiling.

“People had the idea to start a youth education and sailing initiative, but to actually do it in this way has been something else,” Sir Russell told the gathering.

“The magic of sailing is what it can teach in life lessons and life skills.”

In tandem with the Endeavour programme, based now at both ends of the island, the Oracle sailors have pitched in to refurbish old vessels salvaged from local clubs to donate them to youngsters.

Jimmy Spithill, skipper for the Oracle team, said that “rebuilding the boats that were basically on the garbage tip and being able to give them to the kids has been where the reward is”.

The centre, which stands on land donated by the West End Development Corporation, is also a learning tool for science and technology — including its power supply.

Coming up next is a layer of solar panels for the roof at the facility, dubbed the West Fort.

With plenty more sun coming as the summer programme launches in June, the West Fort aims to combine its solar array with batteries, thus going “entirely off the grid”, last night’s guests heard.

One day I’ll sail away: Liam Baker, 6, dreams of navigating the high seas (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Showcasing skills: students from the Endeavour Programme make their way in for the West Fort opening presentation (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Grand opening: Erin Grajewski from Orbis Investments at the roof-wetting ceremony (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
In the pink: the Endeavour Programme’s western base (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
‘Fabulous facility’: the base is built from converted shipping containers (Photograph by Akil Simmons)