The Volvo Ocean Race Youth Academy, powered by International, visited Itajaí, Brazil – and with the help of Olympic gold medallist Martine Grael, inspired a whole new generation of future racers to chase their dreams.
Our team received this letter from Maria Luiza Rupp, a graduate of the Academy last race, and we wanted to share:
"The Volvo Academy was, as usual, a magnificent experience. I think words will never be enough to describe how much good comes out from this project and saying thank you to our sponsors won’t ever be enough to pay for this life-changing opportunity. From the talk between the kids and Martine Grael during the morning, until the barbecue behind the Boatyard in the evening, if I had to summarize that day in one word, it would be love.
Personally, I fell in love with the Academy project two editions ago, when I was one of the kids sailing in optimists. Now, six years later, and participating in the Umpire clinic, seeing so many kids having the same opportunity that I had – to fall in love with this amazing sport that is sailing – filled my heart with joy.
This project is life-changing in so many ways, that I would probably have to write a book to cover it all. Starting with the obvious: the legacy it leaves for the kids. Most of them learned sailing in a social project from ANI (Itajaí’s nautical association) and don't have any idea of how major sailing events work. Having the biggest regatta of the world to stop in their city and getting them involved with the sailors and the boats, makes them believe that there is a future in sailing.
Among with inspiring dreams of future professions, the Academy makes the “dream come true” in the present with the boat tours and the team racing championship. I had the amazing opportunity to accompany the kids visiting AkzoNobel to translate for them and I could see their eyes growing bigger as they approached the boat, when they finally got inside, they could barely hide the excitement, looking around and trying to absorb every detail of what I was explaining to them.
After that, when they thought it couldn’t possibly get any better, the real fun started as the team racing championship began. Their little faces were anxious and focused, as they were concentrating to do their very best, and as the afternoon went on, the improvement they made working as a group and as individuals was visible. As the sun started to fade, and the Academy came to an end, what wouldn’t stop growing were the smiles of the kids. Their happiness for being in their first championship, and the special glow in their eyes when receiving the medals on the stage at the race village, made me sure that this edition of the Academy made all those little kids feel like giants.
As if that wasn’t enough, the academy also was a wonderful experience for me and nine other young adults who made part of the umpire clinic, teaching us more about sailing rules and how to apply them. Being on the water as an umpire made me learn so much, both as a sailor and as a person, and most of all, made me fall even more for this sport, mostly because I realized that you don’t have to be in the boat competing to take part of the emotion that is sailing.
Life can take countless turns, tides can change, winds can shift, but what will always remain are the memories of this fantastic day that will certainly follow me and those kids for the rest of our lives. As one of them said after the racing was over: “After this, I want to keep sailing until I die” and well, I feel exactly the same.
Maria Luiza Rupp