In the 17th century, Bermudians took to the water in fast, sturdy sloops whose sailing required the finest in cooperative seamanship. That tradition lives on today in Spirit of Bermuda, the training ship of the Bermuda Sloop Foundation. The Foundation’s objective is to provide development opportunities to a cross-section of Bermuda youth by using Spirit of Bermuda as both a supportive community and a classroom, integrating programs at sea with the students’ formal education. Living and working together, youngsters of both genders set goals and implement ways of achieving them. Along the way they learn important lessons in teamwork and responsibility, and emerge with a heightened sense of responsibility and self-worth. Visits to foreign ports in places including the United States, Canada, The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, the Azores and Spain provide young sailors with opportunities to represent their country. In 2009, students participated in the Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge in conjunction with Bermuda’s 400th anniversary celebrations. Spirit of Bermuda also won the 2007 Sail Training Program of the Year Award from the American Sail Training Association and the 2007/8 Sail Trainer of the Year Award from Sail Training International. In September 2008, the ship came in first in Canada’s ’Round Prince Edward Island Race. Students return from their voyages with new respect for order and discipline, understanding of the importance of skill building, a sense of camaraderie and acceptance, the ability to stay calm in emergencies, and, most important, pride in their achievements. Spirit of Bermuda was built by Rockport Marine of Rockport, Maine, an American coastal community where seafaring is also a way of life, and sailed into Bermuda on Oct. 1, 2006. Her arrival was greeted by hundreds of wellwishers on land and a flotilla of large and small private boats — a warm welcome for a ship which, in just a few short years, has provided so many opportunities for Bermudian youth. (737-5667, www. Bermudasloop.org)
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