Vestas 11th Hour Racing Building a Legacy of Sustainability

Building a Legacy of Sustainability

Argo-sponsored Vestas 11th Hour Racing is leading sustainability in the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race.

Teams participating in the Volvo Ocean Race series all say the same thing: The 45,000-nautical mile journey is littered with ocean pollution.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, approximately 1.4 billion pounds of trash enter the ocean each year, increasingly in the form of plastics.

Vestas 11th Hour Racing is doing something about it.

The team – sponsored by Argo Group as part of its continuing support of those that align with the company’s commitment to innovation, teamwork and sustainability – wants to win with a legacy as the most sustainable team to have ever sailed in the Volvo Ocean Race.

“Sustainable sports don’t exist in large numbers, but we found this match and we think it’s perfect for us,” said Gary Grose, Argo Group producer management and marketing leader. “The focus on sustainability is a priority for Argo and the message resonates with our clients and our prospects.”

Here’s how the team plans to do it.

  • Personal sustainability kit: All team members have a kit containing ecofriendly products (reusable water bottle and filter, coffee mug, toiletries, shopping bag) that each person uses no matter where they are in the world.
  • Track consumption: The team calculates travel, accommodations, waste, and electricity and water usage during the competition to be offset at the conclusion of the race.
  • Education outreach: At each port throughout the race, the team teaches visitors about ocean health and renewable energy.
  • Positive plastic footprint: The team uses a water desalinator on the boat and avoids single-use plastic cutlery and drinking straws. They also remove trash during beach cleanups between race legs.
  • Used/reusable furniture: The team has used items from previous races in the office area and team base or, if newly purchased, items to be reused after the current race.
  • Ecofriendly gear: The team’s sunglasses are made out of 100 percent recycled fishnets. The sunblock they use is the first in the world to be awarded the Marine Positive Certificate. Its unique formula does not harm coral reefs.
  • Local, sustainable food: The team sources food from host countries and have committed to go meat-free on Mondays (onshore and off). All packaging returns to land to be recycled. All scraps from land operations are composted.

Team co-founder and director Mark Towill and other crew members shared on social media why sustainability is a personal issue to them.

“Scientists predict that by 2050, the majority of the world’s coral reefs will disappear from our oceans,” Towill said. “It’s a really sad thing. Coral reefs are such an important part of our ecosystem. I’m seeing it happen back in my home of Hawaii, and it’s happening here at the Great Barrier Reef. We need to be doing more about it.”

Creating a sustainability strategy

The Volvo Ocean Race spans the globe for nine months, with race villages and event and team operations at a dozen ports between racing legs. That’s a potentially enormous carbon footprint.

One of the team’s partners, 11th Hour Racing, is also involved with the Volvo Ocean Race as the Founding Principal Partner of the Race’s Sustainability Program. They worked with an environmental consultant more than a year before the series set sail, collecting data and information to help organizers develop and implement a strategy to reduce that environmental impact.

“The sustainability goals of the Volvo Ocean Race are impressive and something for all the competitors and partners to be proud of,” said Kellie Covington, program consultant for 11th Hour Racing.

The strategy’s three key pillars are:

  1. To minimize the race’s own footprint with a focus on reducing and, where possible, eliminating single-use plastic in race villages.
  2. To maximize awareness and action on ocean health and plastic pollution through the race’s global platform and an educational program, and Ocean Summits that bring together science, government, sports and business.
  3. To leave a positive legacy through initiatives such as a science program that uses the Volvo Ocean 65 racing yachts to capture data while at sea and contribute to understanding of the oceans in the most remote areas of the planet.

Learn more about the program.

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