The Volvo Ocean Race is a nine-month, round-the-world sailing test. Seven boats and crews shoved off from Alicante, Spain on October 22 to start the 2017-18 version. The Vestas 11th Hour Racing Team is going to significant lengths to be the most sustainable team ever to compete in the event. That commitment was on display for fans at the Exploration Zones in the squad’s base in the race village during the run up to the start.
The first ocean leg of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race, from Alicante, Spain, to Lisbon, Portugal, started on October 22. The 1,450 nautical mile (nm) course is taking the seven competing teams through the Strait of Gibraltar and around the small island of Porto Santo, close to Madeira, before heading directly to the Portuguese capital.
Before the teams set off from Alicante, many thousands of sailing fans visited the race village. And no one should be surprised that sustainability was the focal point of the ground floor Exploration Zone at the home base of the Vestas 11th Hour Racing team.
VESTAS, 11TH HOUR RACING AND THE TEAM: A NATURAL, SUSTAINABLE FIT
After all, Aarhus, Denmark-based Vestas is the only global energy company dedicated exclusively to wind energy. And 11th Hour Racing of Newport, RI is an organization that promotes healthy oceans, in part by making world class sailing racing more sustainable.
One way they do this is through the sponsorship — and greening — of sailing teams in the America’s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race, the world’s most well known sailing contests. 11th Hour Racing was the exclusive Sustainability Partner of Land Rover BAR, Great Britain’s entry in the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda in June.
Now they’ve teamed up with Vestas to sponsor a team that aims not only to win, but also to be the most sustainable team ever to have competed in the Volvo Ocean Race#.
Environmental sustainability, ocean health and climate change are also core tenets for team director Mark Towill and skipper Charlie Enright, making their partnership with Vestas and 11th Hour Racing a seamless fit. In fact, Mark and Charlie worked with a sustainability consultant to determine the environmental impact of their previous participation in the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race with Team Alvimedica.
Charlie Enright, skipper of Vestas 11th Hour Racing (Photo credit: D3O)
Mark Towill, team director of Vestas 11th Hour Racing, holding a piece 1,000 year-old ice (Photo credit: P. Bucktrout, BAS)
Those data formed the baseline of what became a robust sustainability plan for the 2017-2018 edition. It covers all aspects of the team’s operations on their 45,000 nautical-miles around-the-world journey. Some of these include:
- Calculating its carbon footprint by tracking all travel, accommodations, electricity usage, water consumption and waste. That footprint will be offset at the race’s conclusion
- Outfitting each team member with a “sustainability kit” that contains refillable water bottle, coffee mug, and bamboo toothbrushes, along with sustainable soap, shampoo, toothpaste and laundry detergent. It also includes a personal water filter to ensure clean, safe drinking water.
- Eliminating the use of single-use plastics and straws
- Creating a positive plastic footprint by removing more trash from beach cleanups than they use
- Using a desalinator for on board water needs, saving an estimated 13,500 one-liter water bottles throughout the race
- Achieving a 75 percent waste diversion rate
- Wearing Karün sunglasses made from 100 percent recycled fishing nets and using Aethic sunblock, produced with a unique formula that does not harm coral reefs
- Sourcing local, sustainable foods from the countries they visit, including sustainable seafood
- Pledging to go Meat Free on Mondays both onshore and off
- Raising awareness of the team’s vision of a cleaner, healthier environment at the race stops and during the race via the Vestas 11th Hour Racing website and the #LeadingSustainability hashtag
Screenshot of Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s website’s home page on October 27, featuring a sustainability-themed trivia question
SAILING FANS EXPERIENCE THE VESTAS 11TH HOUR RACING SUSTAINABILITY ETHOS AT THE EXPLORATION ZONE
Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s Exploration Zone is an dedicated, immersive educational space where the public could learn about renewable energy and ocean health through the prism of sailing’s most crucial elements; wind and water. From virtual reality goggles to interactive displays, the space was a must-see attraction among Alicante race village visitors, with over 1,000 people experiencing the Exploration Zone each day.
Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s Exploration Zone at their base in Alicante, Spain; where the Volvo Ocean Race started (Photo credit: Atila Madrona/Vestas 11th Hour Racing)
Sailing fans outside the entrance to the Vestas 11th Hour Racing Exploration Zone in Alicante, Spain (Photo credit: Atila Madrona/Vestas 11th Hour Racing)
The team also brought its sustainability message outside the Race Village, as Vestas 11th Hour Racing sailors and local students met with a local environmental organization, Asociación De Naturalistas Del Sureste (ANSE). They toured ANSE’s wooden sailing vessel, Else, equipped to monitor and protect endangered species, study pollution effects on plants and animals, and implement coastal restoration projects. Hannah Diamond was among the team’s sailors who learned about ANSE’s endeavors: “I was most surprised that here in the Mediterranean there are sperm whales that are bigger than our Volvo Ocean 65 [foot boat].”
Members of the Vestas 11th Hour Racing staff on the ANSE boat (Photo credit Atila Madrona/Vestas 11th Hour Racing)
Ocean health and the issue of plastic ocean pollution were the themes of the Ocean Summit that took place in Alicante during race week. Mark Towill gave the keynote address to a full house of NGOs, government and the private sector. The Hawaii native reflected on his time at sea and also about how the Volvo Ocean Race can be a massive megaphone for the team’s sustainability messaging: “[We have] a real opportunity to use this race as a platform and we need to make the most of it.”
VESTAS 11TH HOUR RACING EXPLORATION ZONES AT ALL BUT TWO RACE STOPS
Sailing fans around the world will be able to visit the Vestas 11th Hour Racing Exploration Zones at all but two of the race stops before the finish in The Hague, Netherlands at the end of June. Here is a list of the stops, race village opening days and the start dates of the next race legs.
- Lisbon, Portugal: October 31 – November 5
- Cape Town, South Africa: November 24 – December 10
- Melbourne, Australia: December 27 – January 8, 2018 (NO EXPLORATION ZONE)
- Hong Kong: January 17 – February 1
- Guangzhou, China: January 31 – February 5 (NO EXPLORATION ZONE)
- Hong Kong: January 17 – February 7
- Auckland, New Zealand: February 24 – March 18
- Itajaí, Brazil: April 5 – April 22
- Newport, Rhode Island: May 8 – May 20
- Cardiff, Wales: May 27 – June 10
- Gothenburg, Sweden: June 14 – June 21
- The Hague, Netherlands: June 24 – June 30
Mark Towill and Charlie Enright tell the Vestas 11th Hour Racing story in this 2 minute 23 second video