Published on Thursday, March 30, 2017
Graham McKenzie pops over to Bermuda as it gears up for its next major sporting event.
The ropes are ready, the decks are cleaned and the foils are about to be lifted out of the water as the countdown to the Americas Cup 2017 begins in Bermuda. The finals start on May 26 and, for UK visitors to the island, it will be a particularly exciting time as the initial world series was won by our own Land Rover BAR team, led-by Sir Ben Ainslie.
Culmination will begin on June 17, with the winner of the Challenger series up against the cup holder Team Oracle USA, when the very fastest sailors in the world race the world's fastest yachts, AC50s, over a course that can be viewed from the shoreline.
The event in Bermuda has been a long time in the making as the island was announced as the host venue back in December 2014. In that time, it has undergone a transformation, but not just for the sailing event. The government and its citizens recognised, after the financial jolt of 2008, that tourism, when run for the benefit of the locals, is no bad thing. New marketing, new attitude, new events and a new energy for tourism is now supported by the majority of Bermudians.
Other major sporting events, including cricket, golf (the island has fantastic, world-leading facilities including a par 3 championship course), rugby and - within the next three years, the International Triathlon Union World Triathlon Series - pepper Bermuda's calendar.
It's not just sport that features high on the visitors' and residents' lists of things to see and do. Its renowned pink beaches are a very pleasant place to spend an afternoon and travel a little further inland and you will be able to discover a host of historic places to immerse yourself in.
The Town of St. George, a UNESCO World Heritage site, tells the story of how Bermuda was established by the British hundreds of years ago as a refuge from the ravages of the Atlantic. A British vessel sailing to Virginia to help in the war of independence got into trouble and landed in Bermuda. Despite undergoing repairs and carrying onto the new world some of the ships passengers and servicemen stayed behind and the rest is. ..history.
Restaurants, pubs, museums, attractions and all tourism-related businesses display a warm island welcome mentality without servitude, which is refreshing.
Getting here from the UK is easy and relatively quick with an average flight time of just over seven hours. British Airways flies a four-cabin aircraft to Bermuda five times a week in winter and seven times a week in summer.
BA's flight now operates from Gatwick's south terminal, where its new lounge can seat twice as many customers as its former home in the north terminal. It's a relaxing start to the journey, with separate spaces to work, chill-out or dine, plus there's free high-speed wi-fi and showers if you need them. Oh, and a kids' zone which, I'm pleased to say, is sound-proofed.
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