In pursuit of success and sustainability

Published on October 11th, 2020

Meg Reilly is co-skipper and co-founder of Ocean Racers, an international offshore training and racing team. In honor of the COVID-canceled Annapolis Boat Show (October 8-12), the team was hosting a virtual Boat Show on their social media channels @oceanracers to offer a behind-the-scenes look at all things Ocean Racing.

In this segment, Meg provides the full scoop on the 11th Hour Racing Team’s new boat to win The Ocean Race 2022-23 and its sustainability mission:

When it comes to sustainability, no sailing team is more synonymous with the topic than 11th Hour Racing Team. So when it came to covering Sustainability during our Ocean Racers Online Boat Show (#OROBS), we couldn’t talk sustainability without hearing from the Team.

I virtually sat down with Damian Foxall, Sustainability Program Manager at 1 Degree/11th Hour Racing Team to discuss the recent announcements on their new IMOCA 60 build, and how the team is approaching two grandiose goals: sustainability and success in The Ocean Race.

Over our 30-minute chat, Damian Foxall pulls back the curtain to take a macro and micro look at sustainability in our sport. From the team’s findings and goals for their new IMOCA60 build, up to the Ocean Race and IMOCA60 class involvement, and down to an individual level. Here’s a recap from our chat:

New Build News
The team is looking into what is possible for recycling and up-cycling materials in the new IMOCA60 build. Typically these race boats are made completely of new carbon fiber, so the team is testing and trying to see if carbon fiber is the only option for construction material.

Currently the 11th Hour Racing Team is experimenting with an organic material called flax, which they are testing for non-load-bearing structures onboard such as hatches. The team plans to share their findings with the IMOCA class to help influence and incentivize more sustainable boat building for the Class.

Life Cycle vs. Life Span
Foxall speaks a lot about life cycle of boat elements, and the assessment of such is done from stem to stern. From the mast and sails, all the way down to small pieces of hardware, a full report is compiled on the environmental impact of each element. This is what is referred to as the life cycle of the product, and calculates every environmental factor such as how and how far it is shipped to reach the end user.

For example, Foxall explains that the team’s new build base in Brittany, France is a sustainable choice. Their mast and several other elements of the new boat are being built right down the road from them, thus mitigating the environmental impacts of shipping.

I also asked about life span, which Foxall defines as being on the user side of the sustainability spectrum. This is derived from how and how long the product is used. When it comes to performance — and winning — racing yachts, typically the life span is short, for just one campaign, which usually does not last more than a few years.

However, Foxall states that “the class racing is actually a very sustainable approach” since boats can be used in future editions and passed down through rising teams. 11th Hour Racing Team’s current IMOCA60 is a perfect example of that, having served as Alex Thompson Hugo Boss’s 2016 Vendee Globe vessel.

Living a Sustainable Life
Foxall explains that sustainability is a commitment from an organizational level, all the way down to an individual. When asked how average sailors can sail more sustainably, Foxall again points to life cycles of sailing products, understanding the environmental impact of each purchase, and making sustainable buying decisions as a result.

Of course, refusing single-use plastics has been widely adopted in our field since sailing teams have taken a stance, such as Team Turn the Tide on Plastic. “It’s become a standard in our industry, and it’s only taken a few years, so that is fantastic,” recounts Foxall.

“But it doesn’t stop there. We must take a more mindful and sustainable approach to the way we consume and the way we purchase; and supporting the companies and organizations that are trying to do the right thing by voting with your dollar.”

The full interview is below:

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