Two Bermudians Chosen As “Ambassador Crew”

November 7, 2019

Two Bermudians have been selected for the opportunity of a lifetime as “ambassador crew” on a pair of epic voyages in the Clipper 2019–20 Round the World Yacht Race, the Bermuda Tourism Authority announced today.

Matthew Stephens, 18, and Chanara Smith-Rookes, 20, were chosen from a diverse group of nine Bermudian candidates who applied for the high-seas adventure aboard GoToBermuda, the island’s debut team entry in the race, now underway.

Mr Stephens will sail on Leg 7 from Seattle through the Panama Canal to New York City starting next April, while Ms Smith-Rookes will join the fleet when it leaves New York June 22 for the final Leg 8 to Bermuda, then on to Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland, and Race Finish in London.

 Chanara Smith-Rookes and Matthew Stephens

Matthew Stephens & Chanara Smith-Rookes Bermuda Nov 2019

“This is a fantastic opportunity for these two young Bermudians, and we’re thrilled to be able to offer them what no doubt will be a life-changing adventure,” said BTA CEO Kevin Dallas. “They are both incredibly accomplished and outgoing, and we know they’ll do Bermuda proud as island ambassadors.”

The opportunity arose to offer two ambassador crew berths rather than just the one guaranteed as a Host Port and Team Partner for the 40,000-nautical-mile sailing race—and the BTA jumped at the chance, Mr Dallas said.

The BTA CEO explained, “The benefit is that we can now have two capable ambassadors participating at different times next year to benefit from this extraordinary experience and showcase Bermudian spirit.”

Both Mr Stephens and Ms Smith-Rookes will first have to undergo four levels of rigorous training in the UK, starting this week, to qualify for the challenge of their respective races. The BTA covers costs for training and racing, including entry fees, travel, insurance, kit and accommodation.

Bermuda’s debut entry in the Clipper Race, GoToBermuda

The Clipper Round the World Race fleet leaving gosport for the race start in London.

“I seize every opportunity, no matter how challenging it may appear to be at first,” said Ms Smith-Rookes, a private in the Royal Bermuda Regiment, PADI-qualified rescue diver, and member of the Bermuda Women’s National Volleyball Team.

“That is what I have taken from my training at the Regiment—it has opened doors for me.”

For Mr Stephens, a sailing instructor for Bermuda’s Endeavour programme who has sailed since kindergarten, volunteered in the Argo Group Gold Cup, interned with SailGP, and hopes one day to become a professional sailor, the Clipper Race is a dream come true.

“I feel very honoured to have this opportunity,” he said. “I am excited to begin training this month and be onboard Bermuda’s yacht for Leg 7 of the race in 2020. This is the beginning of my long journey to accomplishing my goals of sailing in yacht races such as the Ocean Race and Vendée Globe.”

“The Royal Bermuda Regiment is exceptionally proud of Private Smith-Rookes for being selected for the Clipper Race,” said the Regiment’s Acting Commanding Officer, Major Ben Beasley.

“As a soldier, she is an exemplar of the military’s values of determination, selfless commitment, and courage, which we expect will be tried during this challenging experience. On behalf of all ranks at Warwick Camp, I wish her a safe and rewarding adventure.”

Clipper yachts at the start of Leg 2, from Punta del Este, Uruguay, to Cape Town, South Africa

Clipper Yachts Bermuda Nov 2019

“We are elated for Matthew,” added Jennifer Pitcher, Community Engagement, Development & Partnerships Manager for Endeavour. “He has dedicated his time and talent in support of Endeavour’s experiential education programmes. Along the way, Matt’s positive spirit, tenacity and impressive work ethic have led him to incredible opportunities and we know he will continue to shine brightly.”

The BTA worked with the Clipper Race and numerous local organisations—including sailing clubs, the Bermuda Sloop Foundation, Endeavour Programme, Bermuda Sea Cadets, Raleigh Bermuda, Outward Bound, the Bermuda Police Service and Royal Bermuda Regiment—to identify candidates for the crew selection process by both the BTA’s sports business development and Clipper Race recruitment teams. Each yacht has a professional skipper and mate, with crew aged 18 or older from all over the globe.

The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club [RBYC] will host the 11-strong Clipper Race fleet during its stopover next summer. Hamilton is one of 15 host ports, along with Portimão, Portugal; Cape Town, South Africa; Fremantle, Australia; and Qingdao, China.

GoToBermuda, along with the other vessels, is currently racing Leg 2, the South Atlantic Challenge Leg, from Punta del Este, Uruguay, to Cape Town, South Africa, where the fleet arrives this week before setting sail for Fremantle, Australia later in the month.

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