John Wadson Chairman of Tall Ships Bermuda outlined a very exciting initiative, the Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge 2009 which includes the Bermuda Tall Ships Festival.  This race has been designed around Bermuda and our 400th Anniversary of Permanent Settlement. 

            THE TALL SHIPS ARE COMING!  And they're coming, next year to help us, Bermuda and her people, celebrate 400 years of continuous settlement of these beautiful islands.

They are coming to celebrate us and the remarkable journey that has brought us through four centuries hard times and good times to this thriving community that we are today.  This exciting, and I might add, enormous, initiative, has two primary objectives, or goals, and neither is just a flash in the pan, only for next year - maybe the size of the event will be difficult to repeat for a while, but it is our sincere hope and desire that the benefits we will bring to our young people and our community will be long lasting and ongoing and will be with us well after the birthday party is over.

   Our two primary goals are:  First, and we believe most importantly, 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, (and older for the early stages of the race); 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.  The race, starting in April and finishing in August, will take 4 months, visit 7 ports and cover 8000 miles.  Secondly, and what is taking a lot of our energy is planning and then delivering 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.  We are hopeful that long-lasting memories and friendships that will bring us closer together will come from this experience after all; we are celebrating "us".

            Sail Training International, started in Antwerp but now headquartered in the U.K., is a registered charity with worldwide membership and activities.  Sail Training Bermuda is a founding member.  The aim of STI and consequently Sail Training Bermuda, a Bermuda company and a registered charity, is the development and education of young people of all nationalities, cultures, religions and social backgrounds through the sail training experience.  In 2006 STI was nominated for the Nobel Prize for its activities in promoting international understanding and friendship through sail training for young people.  Now these aims may sound familiar to some of you as they are really quite closely aligned with some of the work conducted by Rotary International and a number of Rotary Clubs.  Recently, Rotary Clubs in Fredrikstad, Norway, helped directly support 25 of their young people in the Tall Ships Races when the Tall Ships visited that port.  In addition, through indirect means, they helped place an additional 100 of their young people in the Tall Ships Races.  This past June, Sail Training International exhibited at Rotary Internationals' Conference in Los Angeles, and if any of you were there and saw that booth you would have seen Sail Training Bermuda front and center.   It's fair to say that Bermuda is functioning at a world class level when it comes to Sail Training.

            Tall ships represent one of the constant features in the continuum between our past and our future, which makes a tall ships race a most fitting way to celebrate our heritage.  This event should give us all time to stop and reflect on our remarkable journey and from there to allow us to create a shared vision to a bright future for our young people for it is they who will have the responsibility of the next 400 years and beyond.

            Our goal is TO MAKE BERMUDA A BETTER PLACE and you can contribute to that goal by investing in our young people and in our community through your support of this Tall Ships Initiative.