The world’s oceans and marine environments need all the help they can get. Most sailing events have partnerships with programmes and initiatives to educate and endeavour to change behaviour, and it’s a great thing, but it’s one area where a bit more joined up thinking between the ‘yacht racing industry’ might lead to a better result.
Like surfers, and other athletes who have the sea as their ‘playing field’, most sailors understand the importance of keeping that environment clean and healthy. No sailing based conservation awareness programme should be seen as better or more important than any other and a united message from the world’s sailors might be more useful than competing campaigns.
In recent weeks, both the Volvo Ocean Race and America’s Cup have announced programmes to show their commitment to sustainability and the environment. Other series like the Multi-One Design have sustainability at the core of their approach, and perhaps go further than the America’s Cup ‘campaign’ by considering the long term use of carbon fiber as a construction material for high-performance racing yachts.
America’s Cup Healthy Ocean Project.
The America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) have set themselves some challenging goals. While trying to re-invent sailing for a totally new audience and promote it to a level where people want to watch it, they are also trying to use it as a tool push an environmentally conscious agenda.
Thankfully, the F1 analogies will have to stop if ACEA really want to be seen as having any credibility to preach environmental stewardship. Perhaps having 3 helicopters airborne for hours at a time during ‘practise’ racing and flying the trophy around the world business class isn’t the best look either, but the organisation is making some effort.
Neill Duffy, Director of Sustainability (and Sponsorship) for ACEA is pushing the organisation to be a force for good. His company “envisions a world in 2020 where the sports, entertainment, celebrity and media sectors; engage with society and the planet as long term sustainable partners, play a meaningful role in delivering a positive social and/or environmental impact as well as financial and entertainment return for all participants and embrace a multiple stakeholder benefits philosophy. ”
“The current reality is the majority of people don’t recognize the value that the ocean provides, nor do they recognize that the ocean is in trouble and needs their help. Together with our global and local partners, we hope to change that fact and instead activate a global call to action – reaching those who have affinity and respect for our world’s oceans and motivating them to act in unparalleled numbers.”
As well as the well crafted press-releases and wraps of newspapers, the America’s Cup will weave public service announcements into America’s Cup broadcasts and visible identification will be on all America’s Cup boats. Events Will commit to Clean Regatta standards, which include replacing disposable drink containers with reusable water bottles and there will be some carbon offset.
San Francisco Bay may get some help, but whether the campaign can influence the giant plastic garbage dump in the North Pacific, out of sight of the ‘stadium’ remains to be seen.
Volvo Ocean Race Promote ‘Keep Oceans Clean’ Message
The Volvo Ocean Race is not a newcomer to the concept of using yacht racing to promote the conservation of ocean habitat and ecosystems. In the last edition, the race promoted a campaign to save the albatross and this edition will continue the tradition through a partnership with artist collective Skeleton Sea.
Volvo Ocean Race Chief Executive Knut Frostad said the initiative is an opportunity to make a global difference.
“This is the project we have been searching for. It has meaning to the race, the sailors and supporters, who all have the chance to make a real difference. The rubbish in the ocean is a concern for everyone and together with Skeleton Sea we will raise awareness of this problem, engage adults and children and inspire them to be part of the solution.’’
Frostad added that pollution was a sporting problem as well as an environmental one.
“For Volvo Ocean Race sailors the rubbish not only pollutes their sporting arena but it can be problematic when they’re racing because it can catch on the keel, rudder and daggerboards and slow down the boat.”
The Bigger Picture – Multi One Design Approach
If you compare the major fuel source for sailing against that of powerboat racing or motor-sport, then the sport seems cleaner and more environmentally friendly, but it is easy to get sucked into thinking that sailing is a ‘clean’ sport.
ACEA is the product of an organisation that spend hundreds of millions of dollars and generated a massive carbon footprint for the development of a boat that was raced twice and now sits mothballed on a pier in San Francisco.
The Multi-One Design approach looks at the lifecycle of the boats as part of the commitment to sustainabilty.
A lifecycle analysis study has shown that it is the construction of the boat and all the related logistics which represent the highest impact at all levels, namely at the global warming level and at the level of the water footprint.
The materials used for the construction have an important impact on the environment, in particular the carbon fibre. However, they say that today carbon fibre is the only material which makes it possible to design multihulls of such a size and such a performance.
It is however interesting to note that the MOD 70’ water footprint, which represents 859 litres per kilo of built boat, is much lower that the water footprint of many agricultural products, namely 15’500 litres of water to produce one kilo of beef or 3’400 litres for one kilo of rice (source : Water Footprint Network) !
If one refers to the three considered impact indicators, the use of an MOD 70′ during one year is equivalent to:
- In terms of global warming: a round trip Geneva – Berlin by plane
- In terms of resources: 308 barrels of oil
- In terms of water footprint: the water necessary to produce 1 ton of wheat
Thanks to the one-design concept and to the long-life circuit (10 year programme), the impact of the construction, the most harmful category for the environment, is limited and relatively reduced compared to other racing boats. This is due to the fact that the tooling (equipment), which counts for an important consumption of composite material is re-used for the construction of the entire series of the 12 MOD 70’ multihulls (and not rebuilt for each boat).
Then, only one sailing boat is used for high level competition during 10 years (unlike the majority of the other competition boats). Stated otherwise, the impact on water footprint by use of an MOD 70’ in competition is about three times less than that of the old generation of oceanic multihulls, the ORMA 60’.
Sailors obviously have a responsibility to fight for the health of the world’s marine environment. From solo Vendee Globe competitors who sail through the floating plastic offshore wastelands to America’s Cup rock-stars who can set an example from their behaviour.
It’s great that the America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race and others can use a proportion of the media activity that they attract to raise awareness, but like the promotion of the sport itself, it would be better done together than separately.