Sustainability Takes Center Stage at America’s Cup World Series in NYC; Sports Media Takes Notice

The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) is a full plate of world class sailing appetizers—8 prep races the world over, pitting the defending champion ORACLE TEAM USA against five challengers, including Great Britain’s Land Rover BAR—that precedes the main course; the America’s Cup finals in Bermuda in June 2017. New York City plays host to the ACWS this weekend, bringing world class sailing racing back to the Hudson River for the first time since 1920. Winning the oldest sporting trophy in the world is, not surprisingly, the number one goal for all six contenders. Happily, it says here, concern for the health of the marine environment and ocean sustainability is moving up the priority list in America’s Cup circles, in large part due to the work of Land Rover BAR and its Exclusive Sustainability Partner, 11th Hour Racing. In fact, sustainability was THE topic of discussion at Thursday’s Land Rover BAR media breakfast and was also on the menu at the ACWS introductory press conference that followed.

 

Over the past year, GreenSportsBlog has written a great deal about how Sir Ben Ainslie, his Land Rover BAR America’s Cup sailing team and 11th Hour Racing, its Exclusive Sustainability Partner, along with other corporate partners, are working hard to achieve what would be two sporting firsts: 1) Win Great Britain’s first America’s Cup, and 2) Do so while reducing carbon emissions. Click here, here and here for our earlier stories on Land Rover BAR and 11th Hour Racing.

Of course, GreenSportsBlog would be keenly interested in the groundbreaking sustainability aspects of the Land Rover BAR story—GSB’s beat is, after all, the intersection of Green + Sports.

But, at Thursday morning’s Land Rover BAR media breakfast in advance of this weekend’s America’s Cup World Series New York event, every question asked of Sir Ben by journalists from The Guardian USA, Sports Business Journal, TimeOut New York and others, was about sustainability.

Maybe, just maybe, pardon the pun, the climate is changing around media coverage of Green-Sports—and for the better.

As for the substance of what was said at the media breakfast, here are some nuggets from the sustainability-minded Q&A:

 

Sir Ben Ainslie, Skipper, Land Rover BAR

  • “When I first met Wendy Schmidt (co-founder of 11th Hour Racing), she impressed upon me that we have to ‘go big’ with sustainability, that, by doing so, we can start to change the world.”
  • “ORACLE TEAM USA, as defending champion, gets to set some of the rules governing the 2017 America’s Cup. They wanted a 62 foot race boat size. But negotiations with us and the other teams resulted in a 50 foot boat. Less cost, fewer materials, better for the environment.”
  • “I just came from a meeting with the skippers of the five other squads [in the America’s Club] about the adoption of a 10-point Sustainability Charter…The guys all reacted well. We are going to make this happen…The Charter will really help the sport and grab the fans…Charter items include collecting rainwater, energy efficiency, limiting single use plastics.”

 

Wendy Schmidt, Co-Founder, 11th Hour Racing

  • “11th Hour got started by sponsoring smaller teams and races in Newport, RI. We’ve never done anything at this [sponsoring an America’s Cup team] scale.”
  • “Bringing sustainability to sailing at this scale will cost more upfront in some respects and that’s where our sponsorship of Land Rover BAR comes in. It helps in the effort to build a ‘Net-Zero’ home base, recycle carbon fibers, eliminate water bottles.”
  • “Engaging the entire Land Rover BAR team [sailors, designers, etc.] is really important—instituting ‘Meatless Mondays’ is just one small way we’re going to do that.”
  • “What does success look like? Watching the team be competitive while reducing its carbon footprint.”
  • “We believe corporations in many sectors can follow our lead in making sustainability a core element in its sports sponsorship programs.”

Wendy Sir Ben

Todd McGuire (l), 11th Hour Racing Program Director; Wendy Schmidt, 11th Hour Racing Co-Founder and Sir Ben Ainslie, Skipper, Land Rover BAR.

 

Niall Dunne, Chief Sustainability Officer, BT, Land Rover BAR’s Sustainability in Technology Partner

  • “Working with sailing makes sense as clean water is essential to the sport.”
  • “Young people, millennials, want ‘Sport with Purpose’. We believe that covering sustainability at the America’s Cup will help drive ratings for our coverage of the race on BT Sport.”

America's Cup

The America’s Cup, the world’s oldest sporting trophy, makes its appearance at the America’s Cup World Series New York press conference, along with its white-gloved minder. (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

Nick Hutton, Sailor/Trimmer, Land Rover BAR

  • “I’ve been on the water since I was 5 or 6 years old; when I was 12 I told my mom ‘I’m gonna become a sailor and win the America’s Cup.’ It’s in my blood. So, as an athlete your main focus is winning. It has to be. But, as you get older and you see things like mounds of trash and plastics in the ocean, you have to notice. And want to do something about it. So the team getting involved with sustainability just makes sense. It fits.”

Sustainability and ocean health also was part of the discussion at the America’s Cup World Series New York opening press conference at the Winter Garden Atrium in Lower Manhattan. One of the reporters asked a question about how the skippers deal with “all the crap in the water.” Sir Ben took the mic and told the assembled media about the 10-point Sustainability Charter the six skippers are taking on.

Reporters scribbled notes. Video cameras recorded. The media climate around Green-Sports is (slowly) a-changin’.

Sir Ben Jimmy

Land Rover BAR skipper Sir Ben Ainslie answers a question about marine sustainability at the America’s Cup World Series New York opening press conference. Jimmy Spithill, skipper of America’s Cup defender ORACLE TEAM USA looks on. (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)
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