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A Race For The Future: SailGP becomes first sport to integrate positive impact into its global league

13 JULY 2021News
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  • New Zealand
From L to R: Nicolai Sehested (DEN), Cooper Dressler (USA), Thibault Laudren (FRA), Phil Robertson (ESP), Richard Mason (GBR), Nathan Outteridge (JPN), Nina Curtis (AUS) and Liv Mackay (NZL) in front of Smeaton’s Tower lighthouse in Plymouth, UK.

SailGP launches second podium for a better planet and makes sustainability action essential to the fabric of sport

NEW ZEALAND - July 14, 2021 - SailGP, the first climate-positive sport and entertainment property, today announced the launch of the Impact League – a world-first, integrated initiative designed to make sustainability action essential to the fabric of sport and to accelerate the transition to clean energy, in order to help mitigate climate change.

Throughout SailGP’s second season, spanning 2021-22, a second leaderboard will be created and the eight international teams – that take part in the most exciting racing on-water – will be rewarded for the positive actions they make to reduce their overall carbon footprint and help accelerate inclusivity in sailing. Ultimately racing for purpose, as well as for sport.
Each team will compete and be accountable across ten key sustainability criteria. The criteria range from pioneering new technologies focusing on clean energy solutions and removing all single-use plastics, to diversity and inclusion and using the team's voice for good. Each team will be externally audited and an overall leaderboard created after each event. At the end of the season – which culminates in San Francisco in March 2022 – there will be two podiums, with the winning team crowned alongside the Season Champions and earning funding for its purpose partner, who supports and advises them throughout the season and is visible on the team’s livery.

New Zealand SailGP Team co-CEO Peter Burling said: “Sport has a massive role to play in bringing people around the most important issues of our time, like climate change. When you’re competing at the top of your sport, you’re constantly looking for ways to improve and make gains. That’s what I really like about the Impact League, it becomes part of how we operate and how we make decisions. That’s when change happens.”

The Impact League has already been running over the first two events of the year in Bermuda and Italy and the current standings show the New Zealand SailGP Team leading the way, but all teams have made great progress across all areas since its inception at the beginning of Season 2.

New Zealand SailGP Team co-CEO Blair Tuke said: “The New Zealand SailGP Team really threw themselves into this with the competitive spirit you’d expect and it’s great to see the team leading early in the competition. While we enjoy the rivalry with other teams around the Impact League, we know this race isn’t about one team winning. It’s about making us better as a whole league and learning from each other. It’s great to see.”

As part of its commitment to the environment, the New Zealand SailGP Team is racing with purpose this season, working with its Race for the Future charity partner Live Ocean, the marine conservation organisation founded by Burling and Tuke.

Live Ocean chief executive Sally Paterson said: “The opportunity to partner with the New Zealand SailGP Team is hugely significant for Live Ocean’s mission for a healthy ocean. The issues facing our ocean and climate, which are inextricably linked, are largely invisible. It’s why using the power of sport is so powerful as it brings these issues into plain sight but in a way that’s really compelling. The Impact League is a brilliant concept, it really encourages the teams to be leaders, to seek gains where they can and to be competitive. It’s also fun and we need more of that.”

By 2050, over 570 low-lying coastal cities, including SailGP host venues such as Plymouth, Saint-Tropez and Sydney, will face projected sea level rise by at least 0.5 meters, putting more than 800 million people at risk from the impacts of rising seas, extreme weather and storm surges*. This impact will be felt across all aspects of society, but the world of sport will be particularly affected. There will be no sport without a planet to play it on. Climate impacts could fundamentally change sports locations and how they are played making sport impossible in several locations.

In New Zealand, 12% of the population, 663,000 people, will be below sea level if we continue the current carbon emission trajectory, reaching 4 degrees warming above pre-industrial levels. This is versus 2% of the population, 112,000 people, if we take action and limit global heating to 1.5 degrees, in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.

To mitigate this threat, the world of sport needs to come together to create a new ‘sustainable-normal’, where action on impact is not an optional extra but an intrinsic part of the status quo. For SailGP, a global championship powered by nature that has made leading on the development of new sustainable initiatives part of its founding goal, the creation of the Impact League is a key step on that journey and a way to take responsibility for the change they want to create.

Creating meaningful change on climate is about action and accountability. By independently measuring and auditing every aspect of sustainability, the Impact League ensures that SailGP and its teams are maximizing their efforts, ensuring genuine systematic change and crafting the new ‘sustainable-normal’.

SailGP CEO Russell Coutts said: “The Impact League shows our commitment to racing for the future. It will ignite the competitive nature of our world-class athletes and reward success off the water – for impactful actions – in the same way we do on it. We believe in the power of sport for good and that sport has a responsibility to lead by example to inspire others to make simple changes for a better planet. Our commitment to sustainability is much deeper than words or promises, it’s based on long-term, measurable action.”

Niclas Svenningsen, manager of Global Climate Action at UN Climate Change, UNFCCC said: “Many of the activities that bring us so much joy in our day-to-day lives are under threat from our changing climate. Sport is no exception, in-fact it is one of the areas set to be worst affected. The Impact League is an innovative and inspiring solution-orientated approach from SailGP to deliver meaningful change and re-define what winning means in sport. I would welcome other sports to follow suit and establish impact leagues of their own to help sport be that platform for real change.”

The Impact League was launched ahead of the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix in Plymouth, the third event in SailGP’s second season. The adrenaline-fueled nine-event championship sees eight national teams racing in coastal cities around the world, aiming to provide great sporting entertainment while at the same time having a positive impact for a better planet. After Plymouth, the next event is Aarhus, Denmark, August 20-21 before the league continues to Saint-Tropez, followed by Cadiz-Andalusia, Sydney and Christchurch before the Grand Final in San Francisco March 26-27, 2022.

To draw attention to the launch, athletes from each of the eight SailGP teams racing in the global league this weekend are campaigning with messages of hope in front of Smeaton’s Tower lighthouse, to shine a light on what the impact could be if action is not taken quickly and encouraging people to race for the future together.

*https://www.c40.org/other/the-future-we-don-t-want-staying-afloat-the-urban-response-to-sea-level-rise