SailGP, the two-year old global sail racing championship that features the world’s fastest boats, has made the climate fight core to its DNA. Management used the COVID hiatus to raise its already strong environmental and climate games through its Race for the Future program.
As of the beginning of the year, SailGP, the racing league that features super-fast foiling catamarans, was committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2025.
But that was before the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to the 2020 race season.
According to director of sustainability Susie Tomson, SailGP used the time to challenge itself to do more green-wise — and to do it faster — through its Race for the Future purpose-driven agenda.
“The COVID break gave people here time to stop and think,” recalled Tomson. “And that led us to ramp up the Race for the Future, our program to accelerate change to a cleaner and more inclusive future. One way we’re doing so is by going ‘climate positive’ by the end of this year.”
Climate positive means that SailGP will go beyond a net zero carbon footprint in all business and event operations. To do so, it will both drastically reduce its carbon output and then invest in projects to offset more than the remaining emissions, ultimately creating an environmental benefit. The league will work to reduce its carbon footprint across all of its activity areas – on the water, onshore and in cities.
“We measure our scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions¹,” Tomson related. “Then we purchase carbon credits with partners One Carbon World — they use the funds to generate new renewable energy products — and World View International, whose ‘blue carbon’ projects are marine-oriented.”
Offsetting is a legitimate way to mitigate the carbon impacts of an organization’s operations but actually reducing emissions is much more important. Tomson says that SailGP’s plan commits the organization to reduce its emissions by 55 percent by 2025.
“There are a number of ways we will do this,” said Tomson. “We’re sourcing our temporary power with innovative, cleaner burning bio-diesel fuel rather than dirty-burning diesel. Our on-board telemetry and other electricity needs are powered by Tesla batteries. And we’ve significantly reduced the number of support boats we will need, switching to ‘virtual support boats’ where possible. ”
When going virtual is impossible, SailGP is working to make the support boats they do use cleaner and greener, through partnerships with like-minded companies, ultimately switching to electronic propulsion for its rigid inflatable boats (RIBS) by 2025.
“We have about 30 RIBS in our fleet,” the SailGP sustainability director noted. “Going electric will make a meaningful difference in terms of our emissions.”
Tomson was also excited to point to the addition of a new force in the electrification of the marine industry.
Last month, Formula E founder Alejandro Agag announced that he is launching E1, an electric motorboat series. His plan is to have up to twelve electric motorboat teams competing for first place honors. Races will be contested on lakes, rivers and off coasts in a single-seater electric racing boat called Racebird.
The series is scheduled to kick off in 2022. Between now and then, Agag and Company are working at Mach speed to take the Racebird from its current life on a computer screen to the factory floor to the water.
SailGP is teaming up with E1.
“We look forward to working with E1 to help push the entire maritime industry forward,” Tomson reported. “The combination of electric boat technology, which we are helping E1 to pioneer, and foiling², which is SailGP’s specialty, will certainly help accelerate the Race for the Future.”
SailGP is also working to embed Race for the Future within each of its eight teams³, all of which have already signed on the U.N.’s Sport For Climate Action framework.
“Each SailGP team partners with a local environmental nonprofit,” Tomson noted. “Teams that make the podium (finish first, second and third in a at an event) will secure funding from SailGP via local sponsors for their chosen partner.”
SailGP also added management firepower to jump start Race for the Future, with Fiona Morgan taking on the newly created role of director of purpose and impact. She brings a strong environmental sustainability and inclusion resume to the league. Morgan was the driving force behind Sky Broadcasting’s corporate and social purpose team, The Bigger Picture, and led the Sky Ocean Rescue consumer campaign, which reached nearly 50 million people across Europe and resulted in behavioral change among its customers towards plastics.
Morgan will oversee SailGP’s first major diversity, equity and inclusion initiative, was launched on Thursday. Its centerpiece is an extensive program that will fast-track the training and development of female athletes for participation in SailGP.
“We acknowledge that there is work to be done in order to make our organization and this sport more inclusive, and we are fully committed to addressing the need to accelerate change,” SailGP CEO Sir Russell Coutts said. “Fast, foiling boats – including our F50 catamarans – are now rightfully at the center of high-performance sail racing, however, the majority of that racing has been predominantly male-driven, resulting in an experience gap among genders. All genders can, and should, be equal in this sport, and we must therefore provide the opportunity necessary to close that gap. It is imperative that we break existing boundaries in the sport to create a more inclusive environment overall.”
SailGP will host the first in a series of women’s invitational camps early in November that will eventually be conducted in each team market – Australia, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and the United States – to engage with female athletes who meet the league’s overall selection criteria.
From there, 16 women will be invited to participate in SailGP’s pre-season training camp early next year. Ultimately, at least one female athlete will be selected to train and be immersed within each team for Season 2, which is set to begin in April 2021.
The league will also use its existing community outreach program – SailGP Inspire – to focus on creating a more racially diverse profile for SailGP and ultimately the sport, beginning at grassroots and junior levels in partnership with national governing bodies, sailing federations and community sailing clubs. In addition, SailGP Inspire will also provide an important pathway for young female sailors plus offer internship opportunities to diverse young professionals.
¹ Scope 1 covers direct emissions from owned or controlled sources. Scope 2 covers indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling consumed by the reporting company. Scope 3 includes all other indirect emissions that occur in an organization’s supply chain.
² A sailing hydrofoil, is a sailboat with wing-like foils mounted under the hull. As the craft increases its speed, the hydrofoils lift the hull up and out of the water, greatly reducing wetted area, resulting in decreased drag and increased speed.
³ SailGP’s eight teams in 2020-21 are Australia, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and the U.S.
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