11th Hour Racing’s Grant Program – the Global Jigsaw of a Thousand Heartfelt Pieces

Since 2010, 11th Hour Racing has had a simple yet global-reaching goal: to create collaborative, systemic change to better the health of the ocean. 

A bold statement. Possibly overwhelming at first, but the team at 11th Hour Racing has proven over the last 10 years that where focus goes, energy flows, and where energy flows, progress shows. Now in its second decade, 11th Hour Racing has developed a number of successful initiatives as it approaches meaningful change through three primary areas of engagement: sponsorships, ambassadors, and grantees. 

This story focuses on the latter. 


11th Hour Racing’s first grant was to Sail Newport back in 2013. Credit: Maaike Bernstrom / 11th Hour Racing
Sail Newport is a sustainable and inclusive sailing center in Rhode Island. Credit: Rodrigo Fernandez


It was back in 2013 that 11th Hour Racing executed its first grant. Inspired by a local community sailing center, 11th Hour Racing helped support a new boat hoist for Sail Newport in Rhode Island. The replacement of the aging three-ton boat hoist with a vegetable oil-powered one not only eliminated the threat of a fossil fuel spill into the city’s beloved harbor but also significantly reduced Sail Newport’s energy costs, the first step in the right direction for Sail Newport in its quest to become a leading sailing center in sustainability and inclusivity.

Fast forward to 2024, and 11th Hour Racing has coordinated a grant portfolio amassing an impressive 261 grants.

We sat down with the President of 11th Hour Racing, Michelle Carnevale, to find out more about the impact of 11th Hour Racing’s philanthropic endeavors. 


What is a mission without vision? 


Michelle Carnevale, president of 11th Hour Racing.

“Global issues, such as ocean health and climate change, are overwhelming,” explains Michelle. Everything we do is for the ocean, recognizing that its health is intricately linked to activities on land. Harnessing the influence of sport and community, we strive to create positive change within coastal communities locally and globally.” 

The topics of climate change, sustainability, and ocean health are ever-evolving with endless moving parts. It’s one thing to have a mission, but quite another to put it into action, even with the right resources, so where do you start? 

“Our relationship as humans with our environment has historically been an extractive one,” Michelle said. “Our vision with the grants program is to change that relationship to a regenerative one. It is for this reason we focus on communities, who in essence are the building blocks of society, the society in which we operate that ultimately connects us all.” 

11th Hour Racing’s grant program focuses on supporting nonprofit organizations worldwide that are advancing solutions and practices that protect and restore the health of the ocean and make coastal communities more sustainable. 

Our grants are designed to jumpstart projects that wouldn’t otherwise be able to get off the ground or provide support in scaling an initiative that needs to take the next vital step in its journey.” 


A local Rhode Island success story


The Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation (CFRF), a network of Rhode Island’s local fisheries, is an example of just how these grants can positively impact a community.

Through interviews and mapping with local fishers, this nonprofit identified over 2,200 derelict lobster traps along the Narragansett Bay seabed and extracted over 4,000 pounds of generic ghost gear – one of the deadliest forms of marine debris. 

“They’re now leading the state’s ghost gear removal, recycling, and management plan,” Michelle says. “This is one of my favorite stories about how a group of local fishers recognized the problem and set about addressing the issue. Initially the grant was to identify hotspots of ghost gear in Narragansett Bay, this then evolved after we connected the CFRF with the Global Ghost Gear Initiative run by the Ocean Conservancy to draw from the lessons learned globally. It’s from here the initiative has grown.   

This is a heartfelt example of how the fishers became changemakers in their community.” 


Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation mapping ghost gear in Narragansett Bay. Credit: Amory Ross / 11th Hour Racing
They extracted over 4,000 pounds of generic ghost gear off the sea bed. Credit: Amory Ross / 11th Hour Racing


Giving the stage to changemakers 


The scope of 11th Hour Racing’s grantees is far-reaching and for good reason. “There is no one solution to these global issues. Our strategy is to support an array of projects that bring local solutions to global problems. We try to go one step further and connect them all so that ideas and pilots can be shared across the globe.” 

The grant program is, first and foremost, about people. “Our vision and priorities are always evolving, but through the stability of our grants program, we continue to build this network of changemakers. We’re always excited by innovation and ideas, but those behind each project also inspire us. It’s the people that make the difference.” 

“These are people who see the world differently, who rally their communities for change, and who doggedly pursue solutions – these are the people our grant program is designed for.” 

So whether it’s supporting the evolution of composting in the state of Rhode Island with Black Earth Compost or facilitating award-winning journalism through The Outlaw Ocean Project and its founder Ian Urbina – every grantee is an important piece of the bigger picture. 



Apply for a grant


If you’d like to explore further how to apply for a grant, applications are now open until March 31, 2024. The process is simple. Just follow these steps to apply.

“We are always interested in hearing ideas,” says Michelle. To those who want to apply, please do. Our application process is simple, and we love hearing from people and organizations who want to make a difference.” 

As the jigsaw comes together, piece by piece, the image is that of a better future. Thanks to the passion of the grantees, a diverse group of people around the world who fundamentally believe we can do better.


Header image credit: Cory Silken Photography