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America’s Cup provides opportunity to build

AC35 action (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Despite the spectacular start of the 35th America’s Cup on May 27 in glorious weather, and the growing enthusiasm building throughout the island, there are still those with negative concepts of the top-flight sporting event, which they label as entertainment for only the wealthy without realising that this world-class event has embraced the Bermuda community with outreach activities that have given Bermudian children new positive experiences along with opening doors for entrepreneurs.

The opportunity to host the prestigious America’s Cup is also an opportunity to build on much of what we already have: beautiful scenery and, yes, we still have beautiful people who cherish our unique spot in the Atlantic and an international reputation for being a place for visitors to truly enjoy with hospitality a natural part of our heritage.

Just as countries around the world have undergone changes in basic attitudes that have affected community life, Bermuda continues to deal with negative elements that do not reflect the true spirit of our island home.

It is a part of life in the modern world, but most Bermudians take pride in knowing that the sound values handed down by those who made many sacrifices in difficult times are values time will never change.

The challenge ahead will not be a matter of economic growth simply to offer better opportunities to acquire a larger slice of the materialistic pie, but to pass on great values to the incoming generation that good manners, honesty and being respectful for law and order are key values for good healthy communities. Failure to instil those values into young minds will be equivalent to dropping the baton at a critical stage of a relay race — we all know the winner must be in possession of a baton at the finish.

Even without full knowledge of the complexities and skill required to operate the sleek vessels gracing our magnificent Great Sound, watching crews in action during a race with super television coverage makes it clear that discipline and commitment play a vital role in performance, especially when conditions change without notice. Every member of each crew is aware that total focus on what they are doing could be the difference between victory and defeat. However, in defeat when people know they did their very best, that in itself is a moral victory of the spirit.

Summer in Bermuda is always a special time for Bermudians and our beautiful water is a significant part of outdoor activity — with swimming, picnicking, boating and, in some cases, simply laying back listening to the birds sing. Long gone are the cicadas, which provided their own music in our cedars every summer before a blight wiped them out some years ago. I can still recall as a young boy catching one and feeling the vibration from their thrilling sound.

Today the cedar has grown back, but the cicada never returned in the way they existed in the mid and late-1940s. Of course, even without them, we still have plenty of music from our bird population.

Reflecting on Bermuda as our island ship in the Atlantic, we can learn much from the racing crews of the America’s Cup because each member, while having a personality of their own, when pooling talents reach an objective as a team where success could hinge on how well they co-ordinate. In other words, every move on board during critical stages is a part of that team effort.

When the excitement of the America’s Cup ends this summer and officials leave for new challenges, we hope they will be able to take with them memories of spending time in a very special place, where returning would be more than wishful thinking. In life we try to learn from experiences, and perhaps our leaders will look to thinking about Bermuda the way crew members think about working closely as a team while operating their complex sailing vessels.

It may be asking a lot, but Bermuda will require better team spirit when confronting political differences that too often divide rather than unite. It is not an impossible task to work closer together, with the key objective being success for Bermuda, and not whether this or that group is in power.

Most Bermudians want our island to be on course for a better and safe society, and we can only reach the finish line if everyone is willing to give their best in the process. The opportunity to build is there; we must take full advantage of it.