AC35: An Invictus moment for Bermuda?

Published on January 27th, 2015

Ernest Hemingway only got it partly right.

Not only does nobody feel sorry for a pampered girl crying on a yacht, nobody feels sorry for a pampered anyone bemoaning their fate on the deck of a floating symbol of privilege and luxury.

Despite the best efforts of organisers and participants in recent years, a whiff of elitism still clings to high-end sailing.

Yachting remains, almost by definition, a rich man’s sport. And locally, of course, it has long been associated with what was once described as the pre-Second World War “Bermuda of beautiful estates and yachts, of stingers at noon and gin and tonics in the evening.”

This was also the Bermuda of rigid racial segregation, of rule by oligarchy and an inbred, inflexible socio-economic and political system.

It was a Golden Age for well-heeled visitors and Front Street merchants, perhaps, but hardly the good old days for the vast majority of Bermudian families.

Currently some members of the local body putting the organisational structure in place for the 35th America’s Cup to be held in Bermuda waters in 2017 are sulking about the fact the competition is not yet being viewed as a community-building vehicle by all segments of the community.

They might want to reconsider their pouting because, frankly, they only elicit about as much sympathy as Hemingway’s pampered girl.

Instead, it would do them and the international event they’re stewarding far more good to take on board some of the constructive criticism being levelled at them.

The intoxicating spectacle of the high-speed, white-knuckle sailing machines which now compete for the America’s Cup has gained the sport a new audience and broadened its appeal considerably over the last decade.

But more of the sport’s old associations perhaps still linger in Bermuda than most other communities.

Cordell Riley, immediate past president of Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda and a commentator on community affairs, recently argued that local organisers had inadvertently reinforced a number of these negative stereotypes. – The Royal Gazette, full story

Note: In population statistics published by the Bermuda government, there were a total of 64,237 people in 2010. The racial make-up of the population was Black (38,399), White & Other (25,459), and not stated (379).

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