In 2017, Bermuda is to take part in Canada’s 150th anniversary of its Confederation by playing host to a fleet of tall ships early in June — greatly adding to the buzz of the 2017 America’s Cup races taking place in local waters.
The announcement came from Sail Training Association Bermuda chairman John Wadson, courtesy of the global group Sail Training International, which is helping to organise the Rendezvous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta.
“We have a long, long history of the tall ships coming here,” Mr Wadson told The Royal Gazette. “This is a Transatlantic event, and they don’t happen that often — so this will make for a very special time, when the majestic tall ships are in the same place as the highest tech sailing vessels going. It’s going to be quite a contrast.”
The stopover from June 1 to June 5, arranged in tandem with Le Rendez-Vous Naval de Quebec, will give sailors a welcome rest break before they continue north for Canada’s celebrations.
Mr Wadson said that having the iconic — and historic — vessels in Bermuda at the same time as the America’s Cup would amount to history meeting with the future.
“It’s a perfect lead up to the America’s Cup event, as tall ships are the sailing machines of the past.”
America’s Cup races will offer the ultimate spectator event, while a tall ships festival in Hamilton would allow the public, including young people, to get up close and personal with the ships.
Bermuda has been host to several Transatlantic tall ships fleets — the most recent being in 2000 and again in 2009, when STA Bermuda, placed more than 150 young Bermudians as sail trainees.
The Association was also voted Best Host Port by Sail Training International.
Sail training uses the sea and tall ships to help young people learn about themselves, discover their hidden strengths and talents and understand the value of working as a team.
Mr Wadson said that in the Island’s latest sailing coup, STA Bermuda had enjoyed the support of the Bermuda Tourism Authority.
The Association will collaborate with Government and the Corporation of Hamilton, as well as other stakeholders in the coming months, to ready yet another top sailing event for Bermuda in the summer of 2017.
Hosting such a major event, and ensuring that the Island once again secures the title of Best Tall Ships Host Port, would take some financial challenges, Mr Wadson said, calling for support from the business community and sports organisations as well as Government.
“The key factor is to ensure that every young person in Bermuda who wants to join a tall ships crew in this event is able to do so, regardless of their financial ability or physical challenges,” he added.
“We appreciate that the America’s Cup event will require major financial resources, but we will also require support, funding, in, in-kind services and creative ideas to make the tall ships festival accessible and fun for all.”
Sail Training International, based in the UK, will put together the itinerary for the Rendezvous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta.
The race will begin in Royal Greenwich, UK on 16 April, 2017, with the ships sailing to Sines, Portugal.
Next come Hamilton Bermuda, Boston, various ports in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and importantly Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, where Canada’s articles of Confederation were signed On July 1, 1867.
The ships will then proceed Quebec City. The final leg will see the fleet sailing back across the Atlantic to Le Havre in France.
Mr Wadson expects that the fleet will be significantly enhanced in Bermuda with the arrival of vessels from South and Central America along with vessels that normally winter in the Caribbean, and some from the East Coast that wish to join the race to Boston and the Canadian event that will follow.
Generally speaking, young people between the age of 15 and 25 are eligible to join a tall ship crew for any leg of the 2017 race.
It is likely that the upper age limit will be increased for those legs that will take place during the school year.