Sorting Out Sustainability

Published on November 30th, 2016

Two-time Olympic Medalist Malcolm Page, who recently shifted from his position with World Sailing to become the Chief of Olympic Sailing for USA, discusses sustainability in the January issue of Seahorse magazine

At the World Sailing Annual Conference in Barcelona, Spain in November, the International Governing Body had a theme running throughout entitled ‘Our Sustainable Future’. The theme was encapsulated by three topics that go hand in hand to form a mission and vision going forward: Sport, technology, nature.

But with sustainability set to play an important role in the sport’s future, what does it actually mean? Working within World Sailing I have had the benefit of seeing the vision from the inside, but I also have my thoughts and opinions as a competitive sailor.

So what does sustainability mean to me? When I hear the word itself a few things come to mind. Sustaining – while promoting – our sport and keeping it relevant in an ever-changing and evolving sporting landscape. And also preserving our playing field, the water that we sail on. Without it there is no sport.

Throughout my sailing career I felt as though I owed a duty to the water on which I competed. We, as sailors, are guardians of the seas and oceans, but it isn’t just about racing and those taking part. We are part of a unique sport – or more accurately activity – that covers such a wide base, from racing to casual weekend sailing with family. One thing we all have in common is responsibility.

Sustainability needs to be all-encompassing. As a sailor I have had the good fortune to sail in numerous countries and in many different classes, so one thing that immediately comes to mind is coaching.

Coaching touches almost everyone looking to compete and is now an essential part of improving racing skills. I wholeheartedly believe that sustainability is a good thing and something positive to aim for in the sport, but as a sailor this cannot be to the detriment of the sport itself and the development of young sailors, especially from emerging sailing nations.

With this in mind I feel that we need to strike a balance around the number of coach boats out on the water during our regattas. We need to help emerging nations to get coaches out on the water and we need to strike a balance with the established nations being overly excessive in their coach boat numbers.

Something else to think about is what the coaches carry on their boats. Plastic drinking bottles? Wrapped food? How do we dispose of the little things we take for granted in order to reduce our footprint? It may sound like a very small detail but it is something we all need to think about. From small changes come the big differences.

These are changes that World Sailing can achieve with the help of our sailing countries around the world, but also as organizers of many events, World Sailing must look at what we can do directly to address environmental considerations. In the short term there are those simple things, like recycling waste and making our events paperless; the big picture solutions will take more thought and debate.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) included sustainability in their Agenda 2020 which guides the future of the whole Olympic movement – World Sailing aims not only to comply but to go above and beyond what is necessary for a worldwide governing body.

Sustainability will always mean different things to different people, who will look at it from many different perspectives, but World Sailing aims to address all those perspectives and be in a position to focus efforts effectively as a leader for change.

One thing is for sure, though: there will be no immediate short term fixes, this is a long-term project that World Sailing will fully invest in to sustain our sport and the environment.

For details on World Sailing… click here.

Seahorse is the dominant international magazine for anyone serious about their racing. Take advantage of their subscription offer or order a single copy of Seahorse online at or for iPad download the Seahorse App at the iTunes store. Contact by email at

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