In July 2015, when the call went out for Bermuda’s best young athletes to try out for Bermuda’s Red Bull Youth America’s Cup team, some of the members who are on that team today were at a crossroads in their life. For them, TeamBDA was the right opportunity at the right time.
Mustafa Ingham admits he was feeling “complacent”. Philip Hagen had reached a rough patch in his competitive swimming career; while Dimitri Stevens was almost at the point of giving up with sailing entirely.
These were some of the stories that emerged from a public Meet and Greet event at Liberty Theatre on Wednesday evening. Moderated by Emmy-winning journalist Glenn Jones, the sailors answered questions that highlighted the highs and lows of their journey so far.
When asked about the sacrifices they make to compete at this level, Mustafa admitted he’s had to drop “life as [he] knew it”. He, like many on the team, has put his education on hold as the team trains full-time for the June regatta.
“None of us work; we don’t do anything other than sail. It takes a lot of time and dedication,” he said. “[I’m training so much] I don’t spend as much time with my family as I’d hope to. I wake up early in the morning and get back home late at night. But what I’ve learnt about myself is I can actually be disciplined.
“Sailing has become a passion for me. Waking up and learning something new every day is great. It’s exciting doing 40 MPH going downwind. Plus, I like working out and I like the food.”
Philip Hagen says TeamBDA has also given him a new lease on life.
Asked what he’ll remember most about the TeamBDA experience, he said the friendships he’s made with his teammates [which he hopes will last a lifetime]; and the thrill that’s come from learning a new sport.
Philip said: “I was a swimmer from the age of nine and went away to university to swim. I was having a rough time in my swimming career when I left Bermuda and when this opportunity came up I had no desire to try out, but my physio kind of egged me on to go and just have fun.
“Now I absolutely love it – being with these guys and every aspect about what we’re doing.”
For Dimitri Stevens it was more about rediscovering the hunger for a sport he loves. Sailing since the age of ten, Dimitri competed in Optimist regattas in North and South America, as well as World Championships.
“After that we did a Youth Olympic Campaign, however, with that I sort of got burnt out with the amount of time I was spending on sailing,” he explained. “I did a little bit of fun sailing after that and then I quit. I didn’t sail that much two years before this, but with this opportunity I decided to get back into sailing and try my best at it again and I think it was a good decision.”
Some attendees said they had a better understanding of what it takes to compete at this international level and left the event with even greater admiration for TeamBDA.
Jess Meredith, an Alumni Development Manager at Warwick Academy, came out to support some of the school’s graduates. She said: “It’s great to see people in Bermuda who you went through the education system with and they are representing their country in an event of this magnitude.
“Tonight I’ve seen the passion of the team and the community support that’s behind TeamBDA and America’s Cup in general.”
Zina Edwards Malcolm admitted she loved a good story and “the tale of Bermuda’s selection as host of the America’s Cup and the assembling of TeamBDA has really captured my imagination”.
She found it fascinating to hear how a mix of non-sailors, and accomplished amateur sailors, including an Olympian [Ceci Wollmann], were assembled to compete against the world’s best.
“I got more than I could have imagined with Glenn and Scott’s fab video production telling the story of the women of TeamBDA, as well as [some of the black Bermudian sailors] Shomari and Mustafa. I can’t wait to support them all in June.”