Sloop gets in spirit of yacht club celebration
The Spirit of Bermuda sail training ship crossed the finish line first in a battle of speed as a three-day sailing rally wrapped up on Sunday.
The rally, named after the Bermuda Sloop Foundation flagship, included the Bermuda Triangle Race on Saturday and was organised by the East End Mini Yacht Club, which also used the event to mark its 52nd anniversary.
Race organisers said it was Bermuda’s first sports tourism event since the pandemic as the island started to reopen to the world.
Racing closed with the Festival of Sail in St George’s Harbour, with Endeavour programme sailors, races with 24 Comet-class boats, as well as pilot gigs.
Alan Burland, founder of the Bermuda Sloop Foundation and its chairman for 17 years, co-ordinated the rally.
He said: “It was superb. The Spirit was crewed by students and former watch leaders from the foundation and so it was fantastic to see their continued enthusiasm.
“The whole idea for this rally was hatched back at the end of March — it was phenomenal to pull it off in three months.”
Mark Clarke, the chairman of the rally committee and son of Colin Clarke, one of the founders of the East End Mini Yacht Club, added: “I am immensely proud the East End Mini Yacht Club, working with the Spirit of Bermuda Foundation, highlighted to the world that we are open.”
Mr Clarke promised: “The collaboration will continue beyond this event. We are grateful for the support of the then minister of tourism and the Bermuda Tourism Authority and others that were instrumental in the rally going ahead.
“Doing this through Covid-19 took a long time and a lot of work.”
The regatta had to be postponed from earlier this summer because of the pandemic.
A stiff southerly breeze on Saturday made for a lively race from St George’s to Hungry Bay in Paget and back, with spectators all along the South Shore.
David Goodwin, chairman of the sloop foundation, said part of the crew were sailors who had embarked on the Spirit of Bermuda after it launched in 2006.
Lawson Williams, 34, said he took part on the ship’s maiden voyage to Europe in 2009 when he was a lance corporal and a member of the Bermuda Regiment crew.
He added: “I was supposed to be on the delivery crew. Halfway across the Atlantic, they asked me to join the professional crew.”
Mr Williams, who had a job at marine and ports, was a watch leader on the journey home.
The foundation asked him to come back as a full-time crew member two months after he returned to Bermuda.
He said: “I spent the next two years there developing my skills.”
Mr Williams said a BSF scholarship helped him obtain his offshore licence for 200-tonne vessels and “changed my life”.
He went on to drive tour boats and after four years became a partner at Fantasea Diving and Watersports — where he is now owner and full-time captain.
Mario Swainson, 32, could not make the maiden voyage of the Spirit, but sailed the next year when he was 18 and CedarBridge Academy deputy head boy.
He became a full-time watch leader in 2009 and over a few more years rose to first officer.
Mr Swainson also got a BSF scholarship to qualify for the same licence as Mr Williams and has “been in yachting for eight years” — now working as captain on luxury charter yacht The Venetian.
Mr Swainson said the Saturday event was a huge success.
He added: “It was great getting a lot of old crewmates together. It’s like riding a bike — you don’t forget.”
Also on board was Robin Peters, a volunteer, on the Spirit for the first time at Mr Clarke’s invitation.
Ms Peters works for Schroders Bermuda, an asset management firm that includes the BSF among the charities it supports.
She said when she back on dry land: “It was awesome watching everybody come together in camaraderie, efficiency and calm.
“It was a great out there — respectful, unconditional collaboration.”
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