By Jack Whibley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Competitors from the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race have spent the past week in Rio, recovering between legs one and two of the grueling event. While in the city, some of the competitors took time out to introduce sailing and rugby to children from Rio’s Deodoro neighborhood.
The Clipper Race is a 40,000-mile ocean race across six continents which takes eleven months to complete. Twelve teams of amateur sailors captained by elite skippers are competing, with a combined total of 670 crew from over forty countries, including five Brazilians.
The crews pulled into Rio last week at the end of leg one and have now departed the city for Cape Town, South Africa. As it travels the world, the race provides a platform for community engagement and international promotion of culture, sports and trade.
During the stop-over in Rio, former England rugby sevens captain Ollie Phillips, part of the crew of the Great Britain Clipper yacht, joined Brazilian rugby captain Fernando Portugal to give school kids a tour of the Great Britain yacht followed by their first taste of rugby on Rio’s Flamengo Beach.
Speaking in relation to the Clipper Race, Phillips told The Rio Times, “It’s been a tough race which had everything I expected and more. The Doldrums were pretty frustrating as we were stuck there for 7 days. At times it was difficult but I forgot any negatives when we entered Guanabara Bay and saw Sugarloaf and Christ the Redeemer and realized we’d made it to Rio.”
Rugby Sevens, the shorter form of the game, is making its debut at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Phillips believes that it will introduce a whole new generation to the sport. “Rugby can help kids learn the benefits of teamwork and camaraderie, honesty and integrity, in a fast and fun atmosphere,” he said.
“In many ways, the atmosphere of rugby sevens has a lot of similarities to Brazil in that it’s fast-paced, athletic, and comes with a carnival atmosphere. Rugby at the Rio Olympics will catapult the game into a new stratosphere.”
Brazil captain, Fernando Portugal, feels that the sport is at a decisive stage in promoting itself in Brazil. He said, “Events like this are vital in raising the profile of our sport and inspiring children to be our future generation of rugby players.”
Rio Rugby team member Marcos Paixao joined the international stars to run the rugby skills session on Flamengo Beach. Paixao took up playing rugby with his three brothers in Cantagolo favela and credits the sport for saving his life. He said he now aspires to make it into the Brazilian squad for the Olympics.
The initiative was supported by the Clipper Race organisers and the Rio 2016 Olympic Organizing Committee. Mariana Behr, head of education for Rio 2016 said, “Our goal is to take advantage of the Rio 2016 Games and incorporate the Olympic and Paralympic values into our schools’ teaching programme, as a way of inspiring kids to be champions in life. Introducing Olympic and Paralympic sports to students and encouraging them to adopt a healthy, active lifestyle is part of this process.”