The tall ships are coming to Bermuda for the Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge 2009 – designed around Bermuda and its 400th anniversary of permanent settlement and – and the Sail Training Bermuda (STI) is looking for young people to join in the challenge.
It has been recommended that Bermuda send 400 trainees to signify the 400th anniversary and STI chairman, John Wadson, told Rotarians yesterday: 'We wish to provide the opportunity of an international sail training experience to as many young people in Bermuda as we can find between the ages of 15 and 25.
'This is real world stuff. Specifically, we are looking for our young people to sign on as trainees to sail in one of the legs of the Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge 2009 race next year. The benefits of a sail training experience are well documented and life changing.'
He added that the event highlight would include the Bermuda Tall Ships Festival next June, in Hamilton.
'We are planning a show-stopping event for our entire community, to host the Tall Ships in our capital city. So much good can come from working together as a community, towards a common goal, for the good of Bermuda, during this event.
'Premier Brown is a very strong supporter of our efforts as is the Governor Sir Richard Gozney. Both have used their skills and contacts to assist us and attended a reception for Naval Attaches in Washington where our focus was on recruiting military vessels. They continue to write letters and provide what other assistance they can.'
He added: 'We are also working closely with the US Consul General, Gregory Slayton, and also a number of the Honorary Consuls in Bermuda to assist in this endeavour.'
By next June there is expected to be more than 50 tall ships of which a dozen or more will be the Class A square riggers.
'Bermuda's very own Tall Ship, the Spirit of Bermuda will be making her European debut as she will be doing the first five of the six legs of this race,' he said. Having our own *Spirit of Bermuda* in the race will help increase the number of berths available to trainees from Bermuda.
'We truly believe, so very strongly, in the value of sail training for youth development that we must emphasise that no prior sailing experience is required, and there will be financial support for those who cannot fully cover the associated costs for themselves.'
The usual age for trainees is between 15 and 25 years of age but in 2009 the upper age limit has been raised to 30 for the early legs of the race because it starts at the end of April when most of the target age group is in school.
Mr. Wadson said: 'Trainees will learn about themselves and discover strengths and talents they didn't know they had.
'They will better understand the value of teamwork and leadership and learn to work in a disciplined environment.
'They will confront both physical and emotional challenges that will inspire self-confidence and personal responsibility.
'They will realise an acceptance of others whatever their social or cultural backgrounds, and they will develop a willingness to take controlled risks. Most importantly, they will make friends and learn to trust others.'
Tall Ships Bermuda Limited's fund-raising goal is to raise $2.5 million and the event has already had some support from the Government, the Bank of Bermuda Foundation and the Corporation of Hamilton.
'The generous upfront support of the Bermuda Government and the Bank of Bermuda Foundation have made a real difference to the planning and preparations for the event — their early support has enabled us to be as advanced as we are.
'We are also grateful for the support and encouragement from the Corporation of Hamilton. Because of their support we are going to have a special treat in store for Bermuda, her residents and visitors,' said Mr. Wadson.
He added: 'With approximately one-third of our financial goal already pledged, the Port Committee of Tall Ships Bermuda Limited is now engaged in a serious fund-raising effort to raise the balance of the monies.
'We hope to generate a surplus to allow us to support ongoing sail training activities for young Bermudians when the spotlights are elsewhere.'
The race will begin in Vigo, Spain on April 30, then the ships will be in Tenerife, Canary Islands, from May 14 to May 17, and will then race 2,600 miles across the Atlantic to Bermuda where they will remain from June 11 to June 15.
The fleet will then race to Charleston, South Carolina, from June 25 to June 29, to Boston, from July 8 to the 13, to Halifax, from July 16 to the 20, and then back across the Atlantic to the finish in Belfast, in Northern Ireland, on August 13 to August 16.
The race will take four months, visit seven ports and cover 8,000 miles. Anybody wishing to be a volunteer in any way, please visit website: www.tallshipsbermuda.com