The Island rose to the challenge in exquisite style as host to the official opening of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Bermuda.
Despite the disappointing lack of wind and resulting postponement of any racing on Saturday, Bermuda took its chance to shine on the world stage and the atmosphere was electric.
People were excited for many different reasons: whether it was to see the AC45Fs coursing across the Great Sound, to hear the words of wisdom from some of the world’s greatest athletes or merely to enjoy the raft of top-drawer entertainment on offer. Bermuda was as vibrant as it was during the heyday of tourism in the 1980s, according to one vendor at the event.
Pamela Quarterly, of Rosa’s, who was able to advertise her sandwiches as Bermuda’s best, having won the Bermuda Tourism Authority competition recently, said: “I have lived here for 35 years and I haven’t felt this buzz and excitement and pride and coming together — this time to shine — since Bermuda’s tourism heyday.”
She added, pointing to the throngs of people in the street: “I came here in 1980 and this would be normal. Business has been going extremely well. I would say we are selling multiple times as many fish sandwiches down here than we would in the restaurant on a Saturday afternoon.
“We’ve sold hundreds today and last night we sold over 600.”
Other businesses and vendors said they had experienced a big boost in sales, thanks to the thousands who came out to see the spectacle.
Allison Smith, from Confections, said: “Last night there were more people than I think I have ever seen on Front Street. It’s been good vibes.”
Mark O’Connor, the manager at the Beach Bistro, said there had been “a lot more foot traffic” since the road had been closed off. “It has added to what our normal day has been,” he said. “We have a food court down the road and that has been doing really well. I would definitely say it has boosted our business and not just today, but the whole week running up to today.”
Some were describing the event on Front Street as if it were “Harbour Nights on steroids”, but regular Harbour Nights vendors said that it was much more than that.
Rebecca Little was selling her sailing-themed jewellery collection and said her business experienced a significant boost. “It’s been going great,” she said. “It is much bigger than Harbour Nights. I like the high-end feel of the event with the organisation and uniformity of the vendors. There has been a real buzz and positivity, and business has been going very well.”
For one man at the America’s Cup, sailing has played a significant part in his life and being here for this event was particularly gratifying.
Nick Bushaway lost his leg in a bike accident in 2010 and found strength and inspiration through sailing on the tall ship Tenacious. With sailing being such a big part of his journey to recovery, he said he was overwhelmed to be in Bermuda during the biggest race that the sport hosts.
“When I am sailing, I don’t feel disabled at all,” he said. “It is like a freedom. I love the rough waters the most and you get thrown around a little bit — it’s like you are fighting against nature.
“Sailing built up my confidence. I used to think, ‘I am disabled; what can I do’ but sailing made me realise you can do anything you want.
“It’s fantastic to be here; it is a bonus. I am most looking forward to seeing Team GB
Two older Bermudian women, Devana Hart and Violet Tucker, looked like they were having a ball with their Dark ’N’ Stormies in hand. “I have lived in Bermuda all my life and I have never seen anything like this before,” Ms Tucker said. “This is a first. Last night was great as well. There is great camaraderie and we got to see people we haven’t seen for a while — everyone has been coming out — old and young.”
Ms Hart added: “I liked the mixture of the crowd; there are people from all backgrounds.”
Michael Soares is from Boston but has Bermudian-Portuguese family. Wearing Home Worx socks decorated with the Bermuda flag, he said he has visited the Island more than 50 times.
“My ties to Bermuda are strong,” he said. “I love everything about this place. I came especially for the America’s Cup; it has been awesome. We are hoping for wind today because I am leaving tomorrow. This is a lot more vibrant than ever before and I think it’s going to be great for your economy and great for your country. I can’t wait to see the big event in 2017.”
Ashton Easton was manning the Endeavour tent, giving out information about the fully funded community sailing project that was brought about by Sir Russell Coutts, the chief executive officer of the America’s Cup Event Authority, whose vision it was to bring sailing’s biggest event to Bermuda. Children had the opportunity to go out on taster sessions and Mr Easton said they were “completely overbooked” with 150 pre-bookings for the weekend. Close to 1,000 students have signed up to the Endeavour programmes, which teach sailing through the Steam curriculum (science, technology, engineering, arts and math).
“We are getting kids out on the water, teaching them to sail on O’Pen Bics, RS Fevas and Hobie Cats,” Mr Easton said.
“We are getting them to make boats with playdough and fill them with marbles to teach them about buoyancy. They can also write letters to the America’s Cup team members so they can get encouragement back from them.
“All in all, the day seemed like a success, although there was a noticeable lull for the few hours we were waiting to hear about the racing.
“There had been plenty to keep us entertained for the most part, including the spectacular Red Bull skydiving show and the question-and-answer session with the America’s Cup team members earlier in the day.”
Jimmy Spithill, the skipper of the America’s Cup defender Oracle Team USA, said: “There is a great energy here in Bermuda. It’s been great to get to know a lot of Bermudians and we want to get a good result here as a thank you for accepting us as the home team and being so hospitable.”
Asked if he felt as though there was a target on his back as the Cup defender, the Australian responded: “Bring it on, mate.”
Saturday was brought to a climax by a high-energy concert, which, despite the persistent rain, delivered first-class performances by local artist Live Wires and The Kings, as well as international stars Maxi Priest and Shaggy. See photographs on page 9
Everyone sucked it up and danced the night away in the puddles and then at the end of the night, the question on everybody’s lips was “will there be any wind tomorrow?”
The answer proved to be resounding — in more ways than one.
This story appeared in the Royal Gazette on October 19th, 2015.