Sir Ben Ainslie, sailing legend and America’s Cup and Olympic champion from Great Britain, has made fighting to protect the health of our oceans the focus of his work. 11th Hour Racing, a Newport, RI-based organization, dedicated in part to making world class sailing more sustainable, is partnering with Ainslie and his team, Land Rover BAR, in its efforts use better practices to win the 35th America’s Cup. GreenSportsBlog spoke with members of the 11th Hour Racing team and Mr. Ainslie about the power of his and his team’s sustainability message and deeds.
Last week BT, the London-based global telecom giant dedicated to “using the power of communications to make a better world,” launched a potential game-changing initiative at the intersection of Green + Sports: 100% Sport will encourage sports teams, leagues, governing bodies, athletes and fans to take action to tackle climate change and reduce carbon emissions by switching to 100% renewable energy. (click here for the backstory from GreenSportsBlog).
Sir Ben Ainslie, the winningest sailor in Olympic history, is the first athlete to join 100% Sport, along with his British America’s Cup team, Land Rover BAR.
That Ainslie stepped up in the climate change fight should not be a surprise. He has been a champion of sustainable sport since setting up his own British America’s Cup team in 2014, after winning sports’ oldest international trophy as part of an American team, ORACLE TEAM USA, the year before. Ben and Land Rover BAR are working with sustainability partner 11th Hour Racing to showcase a sustainable business model, and rethink the way natural resources are used to deliver a winning team. The team’s home base is powered, 100% Sport-style, through 100% renewable electricity sources (solar and wind).
Solar panels on the roof of the home base of Land Rover BAR in Portsmouth, England (Photo credit: Land Rover BAR)
Doing its part, 11th Hour Racing establishes strategic partnerships within the sailing and marine communities to promote the health of the marine environment. According to Program Director Todd McGuire, the organization “provides Land Rover BAR with the tactical and technical sustainability know-how to help minimize the team’s environmental impact, while maximizing the legacy of its sustainable practices to fans and competitors alike.”
In Sir Ben Ainslie, 100% Sport and 11th Hour Racing have partnered with, arguably, sailing’s most brightest star. He came off the bench in the 2013 America’s Cup in San Francisco to lead ORACLE TEAM USA to an historic 9-8 comeback victory against Emirates Team New Zealand. A year later Ainslie formed Land Rover BAR to try to win Great Britain’s 1st ever America’s Cup at the 2017 event in Bermuda.
Ainslie came to his environmental and climate change activism by seeing the effects of water pollution up close: “As a sailor, of course, we are always aware of the surroundings and we can take for granted the beautiful water we get to sail in. But obviously, that’s not the case everywhere and when I started to compete at events around the world, water pollution was really prevalent in some places. There’s no escaping that on a small boat, but pollution is just one aspect of the problem.”
And it’s one thing to see the problem; it’s quite another to do something about it. And Ainslie, Land Rover BAR, and 11th Hour Racing are certainly doing something about it–and they’re aiming high. “We’ve paid a lot of attention to designing new techniques that recycle materials used in the building process, training a new generation of engineers for these sustainable solutions,” said Ainslie,”And we’re also using technology so that the data produced from the boats is sent directly to the designers at HQ rather than needing powerboats following us all the time. So in launching the team it was clear that we could make a real difference. With the help of our sustainability partner, 11th Hour Racing, we’ve set up Land Rover BAR to be the most sustainable sports team on the planet.”
To help Land Rover BAR attain that lofty goal, 11th Hour Racing is putting all hands on deck. In addition to McGuire, Jill Savery, formerly Head of Sustainability for the 2013 America’s Cup, and PR-expert Alessandra Ghezzi are advising the team as to how to best green its operations and to tell its sustainability stories as powerfully as possible. Per Ghezzi, “One of our biggest jobs is to get the word out about what Ben and the team are doing, both to the public and to other sailing teams.”
On the public side, “The broad awareness of the America’s Cup and of Sir Ben Ainslie allows us to reach a wider audience than any other sailing competition and team,” offered Ghezzi, “so we are working with BAR on fan engagement programs that are deployed in schools, and on telling the story of how sustainability can be successfully embedded into the operations of a top-level professional sports team. The idea that the team’s efforts will make the oceans healthier and cleaner certainly resonates with the public.”
What do Ben’s rivals think? “So far the other teams’ reaction have been very positive,” said McGuire, “Sailors understand that having a clean, healthy ocean is essential for the health of their sport, so they’re into it. And Ben is a great guy, he’s very well respected. We couldn’t have a better ambassador.”
Land Rover BAR has issued a GRI-based sustainability report for its operations in 2014 (one of the first for a sports team), and will continue to report to the public about its targets, successes and challenges. The question of measuring fan engagement and wider industry uptake of sustainable sailing operations and innovative technologies is still to be defined. So there is still a lot of work to be done, for all of us and for Sir Ben Ainslie and Land Rover BAR, but they are certainly on the right path, raising the bar for the other teams, the America’s Cup and the sailing industry.
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