How to make smaller footprints

Published on February 24th, 2021

When it comes to “Take only memories, leave only footprints,” there are worse sports than sailing for impacting the environment, but as grand prix sailing heightens its commitment for excellence, its stain on the planet grows too.

Any Olympic caliber regatta will have nearly as many fuel-burning RIBs as dinghies, and the America’s Cup AC75s each have several carbon-spewing powerboats in their wake. And there isn’t much of this equipment designed for end of life. Put it in the composter and it’ll be there when you return.

While Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup team sought to sell an environmental message during their 2017 campaign, that was likely motivated by sponsorship money from 11th Hour Racing, a well-heeled organization that seeks to change habits to improve the ocean’s health. But when Ainslie got more money from chemical powerhouse INEOS, the green message was gone for the 2021 team.

But as one door closes, another opens as America’s Cup defender Emirates Team New Zealand is now raising its hand, admitting they are part of the problem with a new intuitive that hopes to enlighten others on the issue.

“As a team that spends so much of its time on the water, we have always been conscious of our environment and doing what we can to minimize our impact on it as best we can,” said Emirates Team New Zealand Chief Executive Grant Dalton. “We are first to say we aren’t perfect by any stretch, but we are prepared to measure our emissions.”

So they now plant some trees to neutralize their impact, which likely does except for how everyone still sees those high speed powerboats following their chemically formed AC75. Even when we do right when no one’s looking, optics are hard to overcome.

The 52 SUPER SERIES also remains in pursuit of higher environmental standards, and with sponsor 11th Hour Racing contributing to the cause, aims to reduce or manage greenhouse gas emissions or compensate for them when they are unavoidable… like airline travel for the international professional teams.

“We are thrilled to extend our collaboration with 11th Hour Racing,” said Agustín Zulueta, CEO of the 52 SUPER SERIES. “It allows us to prepare an exciting, long-term future, seamlessly integrating sports performance with sustainable practices.”

For the world’s leading grand prix monohull yacht racing circuit which in 2021 will race the 52-foot class across France, Portugal, and Spain, all events will follow a forthcoming sustainability plan for this season and beyond:

• Aim to achieve zero-waste by recovering at least 90% of total operational waste through recycling, composting, donation or reuse.
• Develop a strategy to embed sustainability into the supply chain and procurement processes.
• Involve all key stakeholders in sustainable operations, practices, and communications.
• Develop education and outreach goals for event organizers, sailing teams, owners, and local delivery organizations such as yacht clubs.
• Develop and implement an Environmental Incident Management Plan to prevent and deal with oil spills and marine mammal strikes.
• Implement a sustainable food policy and strategy.
• Commit to staff and supplier diversity and local economic development.
• Work with suppliers and sponsors on sustainable packaging choices.
• Deliver sustainability workshops for all host venues.

Leading by example, the 52 SUPER SERIES will introduce “Lighthouse Initiatives,” which are practical, technical solutions applicable to other sailing events such as:

• Robot race marks, thus reducing fuel used by support boats.
• Electric RIBs.
• A solar-powered race office.
• Electric TP52 engines.

“The 52 SUPER SERIES is our longest standing sponsorship,” said Jeremy Pochman, CEO and co-founder of 11th Hour Racing. “It is great to see their dedication to sustainability embraced by the sustainability ambassadors of each team. The leadership shown by the 52 SUPER SERIES and the grand prix race teams is a guiding light to sailors around the world. We are excited to kick off the 2021 season, to get back out on the water, and to tackle more challenges together.”

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