"Our job at SailGP is to drive people to protect and defend the ocean because it’s our racetrack and our home”. Those are the words of SailGP’s director of purpose and impact Fiona Morgan as the global, purpose-led racing championship marks World Ocean Day 2022.
Teams from the global racing league have been teaming up with their Race for the Future partners, including Parley, Ocean Wise, One Ocean, Save the Med, A Plastic Planet and Live Ocean, on a range of initiatives, from beach cleans to collective calls to action.
The New Zealand and Switzerland teams, as well as CEO Russell Coutts, are taking part in Live Ocean’s Winter Dip, in which participants take to the ocean for at least 30 seconds before nominating three friends to do the same and spreading the word on social media.
“My favourite thing about being in or on the water is the sense of freedom and endless possibilities that being on the sea - or lake - offers us. It’s our playground and all of our responsibility to protect it,” said Switzerland driver Sébastien Schneiter.
New Zealand driver and co-CEO Peter Burling added: “As a small nation, Aotearoa is an ocean giant. We have the fourth largest ocean space in the world, but we only protect 0.4% of it. World Ocean Day is an opportunity for us in New Zealand to have bold conversations about the collective action that we can take to protect and restore the ocean. It does so much for us, it’s time to start prioritising it.”
The Canada SailGP Team meanwhile has joined its Race for the Future partner Ocean Wise to carry out shoreline cleanups across Canada while the US SailGP Team and clothing partner Mustang Survival have produced a paper on how the washing of synthetic clothes contributes to 35% of micro plastics entering the ocean. The paper includes tips to help consumers reduce their impact, such as washing in cold water and purchasing an in-drum device like a Core Ball that helps to capture microfibres.
SailGP has a year-round purpose-led calendar of sustainable initiatives, including clean energy and ocean conservation projects at every Grand Prix event in the league’s seasonal racing calendar.
During the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess, SailGP teamed up with Climate Wise and The Bermuda Seagrass Project to help restore Bermuda’s seagrass and marine environment, which has become critically endangered through the overgrazing by turtles.
These ‘blue carbon’ projects that help conserve seagrass and sea kelp are crucial, Morgan said, to SailGP’s underlying sustainability strategy.
“The ocean plays a massive role in climate change but many people don’t understand that. Part of World Ocean Day is spreading awareness that the ocean is a carbon sink - it’s a vital organism that will help in the battle against climate change.”
SailGP will also join up with the Friends of Chicago River during the United States Sail Grand Prix | Chicago at Navy Pier to expand its in-stream planting program through the planting of over 5,000 plants over a two mile stretch of river.
Morgan also pointed to SailGP’s mammal plan, which sees the league work with local conservation organisations around the world to protect the animals and sea life close to SailGP’s racetracks. In Season 2, this resulted in the San Francisco-based Grand Final being delayed after a whale was spotted on the racecourse as the race committee waited for the mammal to pass safely through the race course.
“We have mammal spotters on the water and processes in place if they are spotted,” said Morgan. “We take ourselves seriously as custodians of the ocean
Key to SailGP’s aims on World Ocean Day 2022 is to act as a ‘window to the ocean’ for those ‘who don’t live near the ocean or water’.
“The ocean can’t talk for itself so on World Ocean Day we want to celebrate the ocean and drive understanding of why everyone needs to play a part in protecting it.”