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Bermudians win Clipper chance

  • Sea adventure: Matthew Stephens and Chanara Smith-Rookes (Photograph supplied)

Two Bermudians have started an intense training regime after they were selected to take part in a 40,000-nautical-mile sailing race.

Matthew Stephens, 18, and Chanara Smith-Rookes, 20, were selected to be members of an “ambassador crew” during the Clipper 2019-20 Round the World Yacht Race.

The youngsters travelled to Britain last week to undergo four levels of rigorous training to qualify for the race.

Mr Stephens, who hopes to become a professional sailor, said: “I feel very honoured to have this opportunity.

“This is the beginning of my long journey to accomplishing my goals of sailing in yacht races such as the Ocean Race and Vendée Globe.”

The youngsters will be crew members on board GoToBermuda in the island’s first entry into the eight-leg race.

The team will compete with ten other teams helmed by a professional skipper and mate, alongside crew members from all over the globe.

Mr Stephens will join the crew on leg seven in April and travel from Seattle, Washington, to New York City through the Panama Canal.

Ms Smith-Rookes will then take over in June for the final leg and sail from New York to Bermuda before continuing to Northern Ireland and finishing in London.

Mr Stephens is a sailing instructor for Bermuda’s Endeavour programme who has been on the water since kindergarten.

He has also volunteered in the Argo Group Gold Cup and interned with international catamaran sailing competition SailGP.

A spokeswoman for Bermuda’s Endeavour programme said: “We are elated for Matthew. He has dedicated his time and talent in support of Endeavour’s experiential education programmes.

“Along the way, Matt’s positive spirit, tenacity and impressive work ethic have led him to incredible opportunities and we know he will continue to shine brightly.”

Ms Smith-Rookes, a private with the Royal Bermuda Regiment, is a Padi-qualified rescue diver and a member of the Bermuda Women’s National Volleyball team.

She said: “I seize every opportunity, no matter how challenging it may appear to be at first.

“That is what I have taken from my training at the regiment — it has opened doors for me.”

Major Ben Beasley, the regiment’s Acting Commanding Officer, said: “The Royal Bermuda Regiment is exceptionally proud of Private Smith-Rookes for being selected for the Clipper race.

“As a soldier, she is an exemplar of the military’s values of determination, selfless commitment, and courage, which we expect will be tried during this challenging experience.

“On behalf of all ranks at Warwick Camp, I wish her a safe and rewarding adventure.”

Kevin Dallas, the chief executive of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for these two young Bermudians and we’re thrilled to be able to offer them what, no doubt, will be a life-changing adventure.

“They are both incredibly accomplished and outgoing and we know they’ll do Bermuda proud as island ambassadors.”

The Round the World Yacht Race started on September 1 in London and continued to Punta del Este, Uruguay, for the first leg.

GoToBermuda and the other vessels raced leg two, the South Atlantic Challenge Leg, from Uruguay to Cape Town, South Africa, last week.

The fleet is expected to set sail for Fremantle, Australia, on Sunday.

Hamilton will serve as one of 15 host ports during the race. The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club will host the race fleet during its stopover in June.