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Volvo Ocean Race Sustainability Training

Guest Blogger: Damian Foxall, Sustainability Manager, Vestas 11th Hour Racing

For the first time in its storied history, The Volvo Ocean Race has launched a major sustainability initiative – and to that end, sailors and shore crew-members from every team gathered this week at the boatyard in Lisbon to learn how they can help the race achieve its sustainability goals.

This will be my 10th Round the World event, a real personal benchmark but it is especially the focus on ocean health and sustainability in this edition of the 2017/18 Volvo Ocean Race that has drawn me back once again. The integration of a broad-reaching sustainable strategy for a major international event like the Volvo Ocean Race is going to mark a significant change in the way the sailing community and sailing events are run going forward. It is great to see that everyone here are proud and engaged to be part of this new challenge.

At Vestas 11th Hour Racing we have set the goal of being the most sustainable team in the race and I am delighted to be able to help coordinate this effort for the team. The next 12 months will bring a rollercoaster of challenges and successes for all of us both on and off the water as we work to excel on the high seas whilst engaging in an industry and personal lifestyle change that we will live and breathe.

To present the Volvo Ocean Race sustainable strategy to the teams, Jill Savery, a consultant to 11th Hour Racing and a founding member of the World Sailing Sustainability Commission kicked off the session painting a picture for sailors on the threats our ocean faces and how professional athletes are becoming more engaged in the topic of sustainability. Anne-Cécile Turner, director of sustainability for the race, lead teams through the details, providing each team with the vision and strategy for making each stopover environmentally responsible, actions teams can take in their bases to meet these standards and the tools that will be provided to teams to reach these goals.

The highlight of the day was the engaging talk given by Emily Penn, an ocean advocate and founder of Exxpedition, she has spent the last ten years exploring the full and growing impact of plastics on our oceans. Ocean plastic is now the central conservation theme of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017/18 and supported by 11th Hour Racing and the UN Environment #CleanSeas campaign on plastic pollution.

The take away from the training day for us all at the Volvo Ocean Race community both shore side and afloat; we have the amazing opportunity to communicate and engage people globally on the importance of ocean health.

On the basis that anything meaningful engages a positive action we finished the day with a full shoreline cleanup of the Volvo Ocean Race village and surrounding area, joined by a few volunteers from the Lisbon area. Thank you, Lisbon!

My personal goal this year’s race:
To have a positive plastic footprint, meaning I intend to significantly reduce my use of plastic while at the same time engaging net positive actions such as cleanups, education, and recycling. The result will be a personal plastic footprint that has refused, reduced, reused, recycled, and recovered more plastic than consumed.

Instead of leaving a trail of plastic wherever I go… now, wherever I go should be cleaner, healthier and happier.