5 Sustainable Sailing Practices

Sustainability. What ­exactly does it entail for sailors, besides the low-hanging fruit of the elimination of single-use plastic bottles?

Land rover bar
Land Rover BAR's Solent base.Harry KH

“Sustainability” is one of the most misunderstood social movements today. What ­exactly does it entail for sailors, besides the low-hanging fruit of the elimination of single-use plastic bottles? Much more, says Todd McGuire, of 11th Hour Racing. The organization’s high-profile efforts to date have been with the TP52 Super Series, Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing, and the Volvo Ocean Race—and with these programs they’ve identified sustainable practices applicable to sailors, yacht clubs and any other ­waterfront facility. McGuire shares the organization’s top five.

1. Shooters from the Solent

Land Rover BAR’s training base in Portsmouth, England, uses renewable energy, water-collection systems and a long list of environmental best practices, but the team’s efforts extend to the water too. It has implemented a program to re-establish the Solent’s native oyster population — right under the base’s docks. Yacht clubs and community sailing centers can follow BAR’s lead, says McGuire, by identifying local issues and creating their own initiatives. All Great Lakes clubs, for example, could combine resources to help tackle invasive zebra mussels and Asian carp, which threaten the region’s ecosystem.

2. Waste Not, Want Not

55 South, founded by Volvo Ocean Race ­co-skippers Mark Towill and Charlie Enright, uses its sailing teams and programs to encourage sustainable practices across all operations. With Vestas 11th Hour Racing, the team will implement a sustainability strategy, which bans single-use plastics (also including straws, ­disposable utensils and plates, coffee mugs, etc.), sourcing local food, sustainable seafood, ­responsible ­procurement, r­esponsible waste management, responsible use of resources (water, energy), as well as education and ­outreach initiatives.

3. Fill 'er Up

In 2015, the 52 Super Series made a ­commitment to introduce new initiatives that would start to change the way staff, sailors, marinas and host yacht clubs would interact with the environment while on-site. The list of policies and initiatives penetrates every level of the organization, including the water supply, waste policies, food provision, fuel usage, cleaning materials, and transport. “These are easy practices that clubs and sailing centers can implement,” says McGuire, “but sailors must drive the effort.”

4.Class Association

The Green Blue — a program created by the Royal Yachting Association and ­British Marine — works with sailing clubs and marinas to conduct environmental assessments, as well as partnering and supporting one-design classes. The RS Aero class, for example, recently implemented its own sustainability charter in support of the Green Blue. At all Aero regattas, organizers and competitors take measures to prevent the spread of invasive nonnative species, use digital communications only, provide water filling stations, encourage energy conservation (turn off the bathroom lights), and identify products with less packaging to minimize waste.

5. Power by Committee

McGuire cites a few top-tier clubs — New York YC, the Royal Yacht Squadron, San Diego YC and YC Costa Smeralda — as examples of organizations that have either encouraged or formed sustainability committees that enable the club’s membership to take a proactive and custodial approach to their local environment. At the New York YC, for example, efforts led to the use of cardboard straws, compostable cups, and even a switch to LED lightbulbs throughout the club. “It’s a great way to empower younger members who are more passionate about sustainability,” says McGuire. “Organizations and individuals can look out for grants from various groups to support efforts for items such as trash skimmers, bringing in guest speakers, engaging youth sailors, and much more — embedding sustainability in their practices and getting the message out.”