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24 October 2005, 10:46 am
The Grael Project
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Connect To Sailing

Despite Brazil having perfect conditions to encourage nautical activities, an 8,000 km coast line, a favourable climate, huge portions of inland navigable waters and the great achievements of Brazilian competitive sailors, the country still has a timid boating industry. The figures speak for themselves with 1,600 inhabitants per boat.
Boats can generate more jobs, a better economy, give kids-at-risk a future, alleviate poverty, make life much better and more enjoyable. Instituto Rumo Náutico, known in Brazil as 'The Grael Project', was the dream of a group of sailors led by Brazilian Olympic medallists and World Champions, the brothers Torben GRAEL and Lars GRAEL.

The vision was of a programme based around the sport of sailing that would allow children and teenagers from low income families the opportunity to learn how to sail, as well as benefit from a complementary education programme teaching culture, technological sciences, geography and history to name a few, and gain essential professional skills to be used in life.

The concept was first developed in 1996, shortly before the Atlanta Olympic Games, and the project was launched only two years later, in 1998. Financial support came from local government initially but soon private businesses joined and started sponsoring the Institute's activities too. After that, Torben acquired a property where the Institute grew, and adapted, and the facilities needed to further develop the program were built.

The project has never stopped growing. Having benefited over 4,000 participants since its launch, 'The Grael Project' is now preparing to start a new programme for disabled sailing in 2006.

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Niteroi and Vitoria staff and kids celebrating the
Escola Naval Regatta
© Torben Grael
In 2003 the quality of the programme was endorsed by UNICEF when the Grael Project was considered to be among the 20 best social initiatives in Brazil. In July 2005, the Project was recognized by ISAF's Connect to Sailing Programme and one month later was officially supported by UNESCO.

Part of the Connect to Sailing ethos is about sharing best practices and experiences in order to inspire others and 'the Grael Project' has certainly been doing just that. In 1999, Lars GRAEL took an invitation from the President of Brazil and turned 'the Grael Project' concept into a national policy. 'The Navegar Project' was created and with it, more than 30 bases throughout Brazil have been set up. The Instituto Rumo Náutico (The Grael Project) is now working to create the Boats for Education Network, connecting and strengthening the many initiatives created throughout the country under the inspiration of the Grael Project.

Axel GRAEL will be speaking at the Connect to Sailing Seminar, taking place on 8 November 2005 during the ISAF Annual Conference in Singapore. Axel will focus on the social and economic potential of sailing in a developing country like Brazil, and will expand on how 'The Grael Project' has developed and achieved all it has since its launch in 1998. The Connect to Sailing Team expect this to be an inspiring presentation.

ISAF. Image, Torben GRAEL and the kids at the graduation of the third class in Vitoria:© Torben Grael
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