Remarks from USCGC Eagle Oracle Reception, July 13, 2016

Remarks (as prepared for delivery) by Consul General Mary Ellen Koenig on the occasion of a reception in honor of the Oracle Team USA on board the USCGC Eagle, Wednesday, July 13

Welcome!  I am delighted to be able to greet you here aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter EAGLE on the occasion of her port call to Bermuda.  This is the U.S. Government’s only tall ship in active service – and I think you will agree with me that she is magnificent.

Special thank you to Capt. Matthew Meilstrup and his crew for their hospitality.  The EAGLE left Baltimore in early March, making a number of stops in the U.S. before sailing to Dublin, London, and Madeira, Portugal before arriving here.  They will be making more stops in the U.S. before ending their voyage on September 19 back in Baltimore.

Their mission is primarily a high seas training mission for the approximately 250 cadets on board.  But beyond that core responsibility, the crew serves as ambassadors for the United States and represents the Coast Guard’s proud 225 years of service.  While here in Bermuda, the cadets will be doing several community service projects, including working with Habitat for Humanity and doing some clean-up for the Aquarium and Zoo.  In addition, groups of them will be engaging in some friendly competition with the Bermuda Royal Regiment, visiting one of Bermuda’s incredible caves, and having a close up and personal tour of the Oracle Team’s base.   I have no doubt that they will wowed by Bermuda – as all visitors are.

Tonight we are jumping the gun by having an event to extend best wishes to Oracle Team USA for next year’s America’s Cup.  We have a number of representatives here tonight from Team USA, including General Manager Grant Simmer.  While I expect the Eagle to be back next year to participate in the Tall Ship regatta, I know that waiting until then to host something for Team USA was wishful thinking – everyone on the team from the CEO to the sailors to the entire team of designers, trainers, technicians and other specialists will undoubtedly be on overdrive next May/June when the finals occur here in Bermuda.  But I didn’t want to get too close to the finals without wishing the US team the best of luck.  I have been quietly asking the various team members to at least fake an American accent for tonight’s event, but I guess in the end that it doesn’t matter what they sound like or where they come from as they will be flying under the U.S. flag.  It is going to be an incredible event.

But before raising a glass to them, I also wanted to acknowledge another group of people who also live on the water.  Not for competition or for our entertainment, but because that is where they make their living as fishermen and crews on shipping vessels and our maritime military forces.  We were graphically reminded recently about life on the sea when the fishing vessel Pioneer sank 900 miles southeast of Bermuda as a result of a fire on board.  They were rescued from the water by a passing ship; the Consulate was drawn into the dramatic story when several medics from the U.S. Air Force parachuted on board to help with a severely burned sailor who was later medvaced from Bermuda by the U.S. military to the U.S. for treatment.  A number of Bermudians who are with us tonight assisted in the rescue and provided generous hospitality at the Sailor’s Home to the surviving crew members – I salute their efforts.   Finally, we are using the occasion of the Eagle’s visit to honor five locally-registered ships for their participation in the Coast Guard’s AMVER program – which I believe played a role in the Pioneer rescue.  Thousands of shipping vessels from around the world voluntarily register with the U.S. Coast Guard which is then able to call for their help in responding to ships and aircraft in distress.   The program has saved hundreds of lives over the years – and I would like to salute the Coast Guard for its initiative.

But, getting back to the task at hand – wishing Oracle Team USA all the best in the upcoming America’s Cup.  I feel very fortunate to be here during this period as it is a particularly exciting time in Bermuda’s history when millions of people from around the world will be watching the action next year on the Great Sound.  Bermuda has done a spectacular job to date in getting ready for this major event.  It promises to be a world class event, so would like to salute the Government of Bermuda and the Bermuda Tourism Authority, as well as all the people working for the America’s Cup management teams.  Best of luck to you as well over the coming year.

I know that I will be joining thousands of Bermudians and Americans who live here who will be rooting for Team USA.  The team has received a warm welcome here in Bermuda and I know that many hope that they might stay to defend the Cup again.  Time will tell.  But in the meantime, please join me in raising our glasses to Oracle Team USA with wishes of great speed and victory next June here in Bermuda.