Ocean Summit in Alicante

Selection of speakers at the Ocean Summit. Back row from left to right: Karun, Anne Cecile-Turner, Emily Penn, Jenna Jambeck, Wendy Schmidt, Mark Towill Front row from left to right: Paul Rose, Thomas Kimber, Todd McGuire Photo credit: Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race

Today marked an exciting event, the first of seven Ocean Summits to take place during the Volvo Ocean Race. Never before has a sailing event so prominently featured the critical mission of protecting the very waters we sail on. The summit brought together sport, science, government, NGOs and the private sector – to generate discussion and create local relevance. 11th Hour Racing is proud to collaborate with the Volvo Ocean Race on these events, as the Founding Principal Partner in Sustainability.

The summit focused on plastic pollution – and the race to stop the 8 million metric tons of plastic that enter the ocean every year. Paul Rose, Vice President of the Royal Geographical Society, and the Expedition Leader on the Pristine Seas team kicked off the morning by setting the scene on the issues the ocean faces – but also some global successes.

Mark Towill, Team Director, Vestas 11th Hour Racing Photo credit: Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race

Mark Towill, Team Director of Vestas 11th Hour Racing shared his perspective – giving an account of sailing through the polluted waters of the Malacca Strait and the contradiction between a beautiful vista and the polluted waters just below. He also shared his recent opportunity to attend with his team a seminar at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and the British Antarctic Survey – learning about the compounding threats to our ocean, including the impacts of climate change on the seas.

Jenna Jambeck, Associate Professor at the University of Georgia Photo credit: Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race

Jenna Jambeck, Associate Professor at the University of Georgia and a grantee of 11th Hour Racing, shared her most recent work focused on designing plastic products taking into consideration what happens to them when they are no longer of use in their current form.

Niklas Kilberg, Senior Manager, Sustainability, Volvo Car Group, introduced the science program for the Volvo Ocean Race, which includes:

  • Meteorological data, sent back from the boats every 10 seconds
  • Scientific-drifter buoys, released from the boats on the four most remote legs
  • Onboard instrument take measurements that look for microplastics in the ocean

Another highlight of the afternoon was a series of presentations focused on business solutions across the plastic value chain, with speakers from Musto and Karün amongst others, discussing their companies’ commitments to changing their reliance on plastics – and how simple engineering solutions, such as The Seabin Project, can stop plastic from entering the ocean.

Wendy Schmidt, President of The Schmidt Family Foundation and Co-Founder of 11th Hour Racing, interviewing with the team at Volvo Ocean Race. Photo credit: Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race

Wendy Schmidt, President of The Schmidt Family Foundation and Co-Founder of 11th Hour Racing, shared her vision:

“Our oceans are under attack – they couldn’t be attacked harder if we tried. That’s why I believe 11th Hour Racing’s partnership with the Volvo Ocean Race and Vestas 11th Hour Racing is a great opportunity to accelerate ocean understanding through sport, science, innovative approach, and creative design. You cannot take care of something that you don’t understand. The sailors are witnesses to what’s happening at sea and they bring stories of the ocean everywhere – and on land, the Ocean Summits and communications campaigns create tangible actions and global awareness, through clear commitments and winning solutions.”

Emily Penn, Skipper & Ocean Advocate is a current grantee of 11th Hour Racing. Photo credit: Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race

Emily Penn, another grantee of 11th Hour Racing, had a literal wake up call while sailing around the world when the thudding of plastic against the hull of her boat woke her up. At the time she was so far from land, the closest human was on the space station. Since then, she has dedicated her life to exploring plastic issues in the ocean, spending time at sea, to figure out how to bring solutions back to land.

The event ended with a call to action, asking for a commitment by governments and industries to ensure clean seas for the future! You can make your commitment to the UN Environment Clean Seas campaign at: http://cleanseas.org/