President’s Reply to ACI Young Leaders

A Reply from the president of Atlantic Challenge International to the session held by ACI youth in Genoa, Italy, concerning the future of Atlantic Challenge.

No venue for Atlantic Challenge is perfect; Genoa, Italy was certainly no exception. Several of you commented on the too busy harbor, and the difficulty of operating around shipping lanes. Others felt contest organizations did not happen at a local and community level.

I certainly agree with these assessments, and I know our trustees do also. All these difficulties are magnified by housing our crews and operating our gigs in a crowded urban area, where space is at a premium, and where our activities are a small part of the overall urban picture. In Genoa there was no grass for playing football and other games, and our gigs were crowded into the basin. In the future we shall make a concerted effort to find less urban areas in which to hold our contests, as we usually have in the past. Smaller towns work out much better for us on all counts. The atmosphere is more personal and friendly, it is easier for us to spread out both on the water and ashore, traffic safety issues are less worrisome, the local communities become involved and vested in our contest.

Some of you mentioned the lack of planned entertainment, of other activities besides the gig contests. This included a lack of published information on what was available to do in the area, how to get there, etc. Another difficulty noted by two groups was the quality of breakfasts. More fruit, better nutrition, and breakfast food adequate for physical activities was requested. In response it must be remembered that ACI was not in control of the contest in the usual sense; we were not actually the sponsoring organization. YCI was our host for this event. Genoa was their territory and they were in control. They did a great job on the water and with many aspects of the contest, for which we at ACI are extremely grateful. I personally had several conversations with YCI organizers well before the contest about each of the above issues, but was unable to interest them in moving in a positive direction. Certainly they will remain important into the future, and I promise we shall make every effort to improve in these areas.

Re entertainment: In the past we have had success with various bands, organized soccer contests in the evenings, evening buses to take crew members to nearby towns, and a song, dance or skit by each team. Can any of you suggest other entertainment you would like?

Concerning the boats and contests.

It was noted that we should incorporate as many cultures as possible, and two groups wanted one boat per country only. With a limit of 16 boats, (some of us feel 12 or 14 is even a better limit), and with 12 or 13 countries already members and perhaps one country joining per year, we are fast approaching a situation where we can only have one boat per country. Until that time, however, the trustees have felt that if we have places available after one boat per country has registered, we should allow other boats to fill these places. After all, if we are providing a challenging and worthwhile experience, should we not allow as many youth as possible to participate?

The next serious of comments by the young leaders group is perhaps the most difficult to deal with. This is the “fairness” issue. Suggestions along this line were: make the details of the scoring more public, allow the teams to know the jury members personally for better rapport, make no rule exceptions, and have stricter control over how the boats are built and how the rules are enforced.

May I point out that we must be careful not be become too “rule bound.” Both the boat construction and the events themselves are very complicated: to introduce enough rules to cover all possibilities and to enforce them absolutely strictly, would literally mean that we would be spending almost all our time making and enforcing rules. As it is our event committee (all volunteers of course) work extremely long hours to put on, judge, and score the events (In past years some committee members left the contest drained to exhaustion). Certainly we will work on this issue starting in Finland, but I think we should have a good look at the goals of Atlantic Challenge* before making “rules” a higher priority. As one of the young leader groups so aptly stated, “this is a friendly competition, not the Olympics so it shouldn’t be taken so seriously.” I would very much like to see all of us, including crews, trustees, and event committee members striving harder to create an atmosphere which emphasizes and points us toward our goals. Certainly crew members and teams should do their absolute best in the contests; that is the challenge. But if you make lifelong friends, meet a personal challenge, and take part in building a local and international community, aren’t these endeavors far more important than worrying too much about the rules or ones’ place in the events?

To encourage and stimulate:
 International friendship and exchange between member nations
 Personal development through challenge
 Interest in local and global maritime heritage
 Perseverance and self reliance
 Community building and responsibility
 Initiative and creativity
 The spirit of adventure


Lee Scarbrough
President, Atlantic Challenge International September 2006