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Bursting with pride

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The opening day of the 35th America's Cup has been hailed an outright success that should have Bermudians across the board brimming with pride.

Thousands descended on the America's Cup Village from around the world to witness the long-awaited start of the global sailing spectacle.

Following an action-packed schedule of events throughout the day, the skies above Dockyard erupted in a cacophony of noise and colour to herald in the official opening ceremony of the 35th America's Cup.

It followed an exhilarating day of racing in the Great Sound as well as an afternoon of high-energy entertainment provided by Wyclef Jean and a host of local artists.

While much of the America's Cup Village theme focused on the cutting-edge technology surrounding one of the world's wealthiest sports, the venue certainly had Bermuda's stamp on it: from the Bermuda Tourism Authority's island-themed Out Here section and the giant longtail display during the evening ceremony, to the packed out Crown and Anchor tent ringing with local accents and a pizza choice called “Chingas!”

With close to 8,000 ticket holders turning out to welcome the sailing showpiece — an event on a scale never before seen on the island — the atmosphere throughout the day was positively buzzing.

Bermuda Tourism Association chief executive Kevin Dallas said Bermuda could not have looked better on the international stage.

“When you look at the feed that went onto NBC of Bermuda and our turquoise water, with everyone out here supporting the Cup in this brilliant sunshine — I couldn't have been happier with how day one went — it has gone incredibly smoothly,” Mr Dallas told The Royal Gazette.

“Everybody seems to be happy and when you talk to Bermudians they seem incredibly proud. That is exactly how we should feel because we are on show and putting our best foot forward.”

Asked about some of the high-profile guests who have ventured to Bermuda for the Cup, which has attracted everyone from Tom Cruise to Maria Sharapova in years gone by, Mr Dallas kept his cards close to his chest.

He did tell us: “It was great to see Michael Douglas here for the roof wetting [of Moresby House] and we have heard there are a lot of other high-profile people on the island. They are here partly because of the America's Cup and partly to experience Bermuda.”

Mr Dallas said international coverage such as on the popular NBC television show Today would “pay dividends in the exposure for the island”.

All sorts of names had been bandied around throughout the day from Eddie Murphy to the Kardashians. However, the best view of the high and mighty for the majority was a squint through the elevated windows of the VIP lounges or a close sail by the impeccable superyachts that provided such a spectacular backdrop to the amphitheatre.

Businesses were straining to keep up with the demand with queues snaking out from vendors including J&B Wood Fired Pizza, Docksider Pub and Restaurant and Devil's Isle.

Timothy Jackson, owner of J&B Wood Fired Pizza, which ran out of the majority of menu choices by the end of the day, said his all Bermudian staff had been in full flow serving since 11.30am with no sign of things letting up.

Dr Jackson told us: “It's been going extremely well. We have sold a nice amount and hopefully that will continue throughout all the America's Cup. So far, so good for all of the Bermudian employees.”

Bermudian Craig Marshall was walking around the grounds selling lager from an usherette tray out of the Docksiders stall. At about 4pm he had already done 20 runs of 20 cans each.

“I have kept going all day,” he said as more customers gathered around him.

Ashley's Lemonade was set up to serve the thirsty thousands continuing its meteoric rise from kid's stall to booming business.

Bermudian Tyler Cook was one of three TK Hair models painted from head to toe in Bermuda and America's Cup-themed art.

Mr Cook, who was painted as Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, said: “One of the models is a longtail, another is a parrotfish. If you put all three of us together, on our backs is the map of Bermuda. A lot of people have been asking for photos with us and have been getting painted. A lot of people are getting the America's Cup teams painted on them.

“It has been nice, there are lots of really friendly people who enjoyed themselves so much. There is an epicness to it when the sun is setting through the buildings and sailboats, and we have that coastguard ship over there — it looks stunning.”

Local comedian Nadanja Bailey had his moment to shine introducing Wyclef — the singer-songwriter who has written for the likes of Beyoncé and Shakira. The former Fugees star took to the stage with his UK number one hit Ready or Not with a little freestyling about meeting “the PM” [Michael Dunkley, The Premier] and hanging out with Michael Douglas in his boat.

The Bermuda flags were flying high during the concert and Wyclef performed with trademark vigour inviting audience members up on stage to dance and even endeavouring to climb up the stage's scaffolding.

During another freestyle session he said that while he had travelled around the world performing, “there's nothing like a Bermuda party”.

And party they did. The bars and VIP lounges around the grounds were bustling and the green AstroTurf area in front of the main stage created a festival atmosphere.

Guest workers Becky Singh and Becky Silvers were enjoying prime views of the racing from the Moët & Chandon Lounge.

Ms Silvers said: “It's good seeing so many people. Everyone is excited. Bermuda is a small place and this stuff doesn't happen that often. I have some friends visiting me and no one is that into racing but they are excited because it is such a good place to have it happen.”

Guest workers Marisol Raynor and Beverlin Bennett, and Bermudian Anika Smith were reflecting on the day over a bottle of champagne.

Ms Smith said: “It has been really impressive what they have put together. The logistical flow has been great.

“The thought that has been put into it, the resources — I don't even feel like I'm in Bermuda right now.”

Ms Raynor added: “It has a more European feel about it.”

As far as parties fit for billionaires go, the America's Cup certainly poured water on the Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, which attracted criticism due to a combination of poor planning, weather and underfunding.

Bermudian senior June Simmons said she had never seen an event of this magnitude on the island in her lifetime. “It's beautiful,” she beamed.

There was something for everyone, in particular the children. A dedicated kids zone teemed with youngsters and an educational hub taught them about sailing and conserving the environment.

Environmental sustainability was a strong theme throughout the village in part thanks to Land Rover BAR skipper Sir Ben Ainslie's sustainability charter for all competing teams. There were water dispensers for reusable drink containers, with a tally showing you how many plastic water bottles were saved from the trash heap. Just one of the few stations tallied about 3,000 towards the end of the day.

A grinding machine in the merchandise store converted plastic trash into pellets that can be repurposed while branded tote bags were made from old ship sails.

A 3D rendering of Bermuda's sunken shipwrecks using advanced technology was unveiled in one of the tents.

The partnership between Look Bermuda and Non Such Expeditions in partnership with the Bermuda Government and the University of California, San Diego allowed viewers to delve under the waters surrounding Bermuda in a virtual 3D swim through her historic wrecks. With around 6,000 photos for each wreck, the results were pretty impressive.

The day had begun with patriotic spectators waving Bermuda flags as Michael Dunkley, the Premier, America's Cup Event Authority chief executive Sir Russell Coutts and America's Cup Endeavour Programme participant Ocean Archeval, 13, of Bermuda Institute, cut the ceremonial ribbon at the entrance of the race village.

It concluded with an official opening ceremony featuring comments from key speakers before the stage burst into music and dance provided by the Gombeys, the Royal Bermuda Regiment Band and a host of local artists including veteran of the Bermuda stage Gene Steede.

The teams taking part in the 35th America's Cup were then presented to the crowd before the day culminated in a beautiful fireworks display.

It was an outstanding start to a series of events during which Bermuda will truly shine on the world stage.

Flying the flag: youngsters storm the stage during Wyclef Jean's performance on the opening day of America's Cup (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Pizza the action: Anthony Jackson with his sell-out pizzas from J&B Wood Fired Pizzas (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)
Model behaviour: Tyler Cook modelled for TK Hair (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)
Cheers: Marisol Raynor, Anika Smith and Beverlin Bennett enjoy a bottle of champagne during the 35th America's Cup opening (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)
Guest workers: Becky Singh and Becky Silvers in the Moët & Chandon Lounge (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)

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Published May 29, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated May 29, 2017 at 7:10 pm)

Bursting with pride

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