There was a time when sailing in Bermuda was limited to the privileged.
Tom Herbert-Evans is proud to have helped change that.
He spent nearly ten years in sail-related positions here and was most recently director of Endeavour Community Sailing.
“The programme takes away every barrier to entry that would otherwise limit students’ sailing,” he said, explaining how it uses the sport to teach Steam subjects to school-aged children.
“You can have a kid from the back of town sail out to sea in the middle of the Great Sound, go along North Shore and look back at Bermuda, and it can be a self-actualising moment.
“Teachers say just the ability to get the children in the water and give them another viewpoint on life is really remarkable.”
It’s a model he believes can be emulated the world over.
The 31-year-old left the island last month for his native Britain. He’s now working with Sir Russell Coutts, New Zealand’s world champion yachtsman, and Larry Ellison, the American entrepreneur and cofounder of the multinational technology corporation Oracle, in their new international series SailGP.
Mr Herbert-Evans was brought up in Mumbles, a small fishing village in Wales, and found his passion through a sailing club there.
At the age of 23, he was coaching for the British National Championships in Weymouth when a chance meeting led him to learn of an opportunity here.
“A family who had been living in Bermuda was there and their daughter was sailing with us. All hell broke loose in terms of the weather and all these boats capsized.
“I jumped in the water and managed to bring the boats upright. The dad was looking over and said I should consider applying for a sailing position in Bermuda.
“I didn’t want to leave Wales. I was volunteering for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, I was involved with the maritime museum and I had a job teaching sailing for the Royal Yachting Association.
“But this opportunity came up and I ended up coming for the Argo Group Gold Cup in 2010.”
The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club then hired him as director of its junior sailing programme.
“It blossomed. Every single dollar that the club turned over went back into the youth programme,” he said.
When Bermuda won the bid to host the 35th America’s Cup in 2017, it was suggested that a youth sailing and education programme be launched in advance.
Mr Herbert-Evans’s name was put forward to Sir Russell, chief executive officer of the America’s Cup Event Authority.
“They didn’t know exactly what they were creating but it became the Endeavour programme. There was no curriculum so we started from scratch, blending the programme into the Cambridge Curriculum. We brought in sponsors for the boats; every bit of hardware, every asset, every sail for Endeavour is now owned by Bermuda.
“As well as the Endeavour programme I had a safety role in America’s Cup Event Authority in the lead-up to the main event. Endeavour kept growing and growing and became my main focus.”
His idea was to have the programme instil students with a sense of pride in Bermuda’s maritime history.
“I definitely wanted to try to reconnect Bermudians to Bermuda’s own history.
“When I lived in Wales I knew what a Bermuda rig was but I didn’t know where Bermuda was. Most people in Bermuda don’t know the value of Bermuda and its influence on the maritime world.”
About 3,000 students have participated since Endeavour’s launch in 2015. Some have excelled: Ahzai Smith, 14, went on to win the Bermuda National Championships twice as well as the New Zealand O’pen Bic Nationals; Tre Maxwell, 19, is working to become a world-class instructor.
Mr Herbert-Evans hopes that the privately funded organisation and the potential it has for the next generation will catch the attention of the powers that be.
“There is no government financial support, yet in the last four years Bermuda has produced Bermudian, British, French, Irish, Canadian, Argentine, New Zealand national champions. It is remarkable and nobody is paying attention to that.
“If there was a proper development pathway in place that was financially supported to prevent barrier to entry, and working with Endeavour to get children through the clubs, Bermuda would change.”
• Learn more about Endeavour Community Sailing at endeavour.bm