JUST ONE month ago, Rui Soares, a local lad from Vila Real de Santo António, was rebuilding sailing boats with friends and taking part in small regattas, now he has joined the Bear of Britain Yachting Academy and has since enjoyed new-found yachting success, breaking records and winning awards.
The Bear of Britain Yachting Academy is the brainchild of Kit Hobday, the former national and world champion sailor, and veteran of two America’s Cup Campaigns. Based on the Isle of Wight in the UK, the yacht (also named Bear of Britain) is where the Academy members train and is the formula one of sailing boats. It is where the trainees are put through their paces with a gruelling schedule involving hard-core assault courses, cross-country walks and no alcohol or cigarettes!
Crewed by amateurs, the Bear of Britain can boast huge successes since its beginning three years ago, and is proud to announce this year that the prestigious JP Morgan Fleming has taken over sponsorship of the Academy.
Always on the lookout for new talent, Kit and wife Susie are regulars of 2 Passos, a beach restaurant in Vale do Lobo. It was at this restaurant that an innocent conversation between Kit, Susie and the restaurant’s owners led to the discovery of Rui and his immediate transportation to Cowes in the Isle of Wight to begin the demanding training scheme.
Whittled from 62 other applicants, the chosen 18 spend two weeks being schooled in the very best of yachting skills by former British Marine physical training instructors. This did not phase Rui – with his English/Portuguese phrase book in hand, Rui found his way from Faro airport to the Isle of Wight and went on to impress the Academy tremendously; so much so in fact that, at the end of the two weeks, he was presented with the award for Best Trainee.
With a very philosophical and relaxed approach to his future, Rui is not over-excited and unrealistic about his success. “It was a great opportunity and my life has changed a lot over the last few weeks,” he says. “But I am open-minded and calm about the situation. Whatever happens, I have really enjoyed it and I know I will always work in something to do with the sea – whatever that may be.”
All in all, only around seven students, who actually survived the tough training regime, will be picked to form the full-time racing crew for the 2005 season and will then go on to take part in some of the most prestigious yacht races in the UK. George Fletcher