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Boat Builders Want More Sustainable Industry, Says Ocean Race Survey

14th September 2021
Racing in the second leg of The Ocean Race Europe from Cascais in Portugal to Alicante in Spain
Racing in the second leg of The Ocean Race Europe from Cascais in Portugal to Alicante in Spain earlier this year Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

An overwhelming number of people working in the sailing and boat building industry say they want the field to become more sustainable.

And nine out of 10 respondents to the survey by The Ocean Race feel that not enough is being done to reduce the environmental impact in their area.

The survey results were shared today (Tuesday 14 September) at The Ocean Race’s Innovation Workshop on Sustainable Boat Building in Lorient.

This third in the series of workshops on the subject brought together 100 participants — including boat builders and designers, sailors, NGOs, universities, sponsors and federations, both in situ and remotely — to tackle the main challenges that need to be met for the boat-building industry to become more sustainable.

Anne-Cécile Turner, sustainability director at The Ocean Race, said: “Competitive sailing has been focused on speed and performance for years, but building the boats remains material, energy and waste intensive. This urgently needs to change.

“The world has just nine years to halve greenhouse gas emissions to be on track with the global ambition to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030 and prevent even more catastrophic climate change.

“Currently, the boat-building industry is not on target to achieve this, but it isn’t too late. By collaborating and committing to change we can slash emissions and show real leadership as an industry.”

Damian Foxall — Co Kerry round-the-world sailor and sustainability programme manager for 11th Hour Racing Team — also spoke at the event, following the launch of the team’s new IMOCA 60 last month, which has been built in preparation for the next edition of The Ocean Race in 2022-23.

Aiming to set a benchmark for sustainable boat building, a range of techniques have been used to reduce the impact of the new vessel, including substituting highly-polluting materials with new alternatives, reducing single-use elements and refining the boat’s shape to make it more energy-efficient.

11th Hour Racing Team’s new boat is hoisted at the boatyard of MerConcept in Concarneau | Credit: Amory Ross11th Hour Racing Team’s new boat is hoisted at the boatyard of MerConcept in Concarneau | Credit: Amory Ross

Ahead of the workshop, Foxall said: “Our approach to the build of our new IMOCA 60 has been to measure everything — from the energy used in the design, computations and construction, to the material usage and the waste.

“By measuring our footprint, we can manage our approach to reducing it through introducing alternative materials, processes and innovations. We now have a benchmark for our IMOCA 60 build which can be used for future builds within the class.”

The survey identified three main barriers to change: a lack of technical knowledge of alternative materials; lack of funding for research and development; and concern that sustainable developments could affect boat speed.

When asked what would motivate them to create more sustainable boats, increased demand from clients comes out top among those surveyed. Six out of 10 feel that this will drive change, followed by a better selection of sustainable products and changes to the racing rules, with half of respondents stating that these factors would make a difference. More industry collaboration is also cited by four in 10.

The Ocean Race has introduced specific rules to help drive teams to be more sustainable. For the 2022-23 edition of the race, teams will be required to generate at least 30% of the energy they use on board through renewable energy sources (hydro, wind, solar) and may be asked to carry scientific equipment onboard to gather data about the state of the ocean.

It’s hoped that these rule changes will help inspire solutions for 100% renewable energy to manage life on board, as well as new construction materials and technologies that have minimal environmental impacts.

The survey, which was conducted by The Ocean Race in August and September 2021, was sent to 100 people in the sailing and boat building industry and supported by 40 stakeholder consultation calls to deep dive into industry barriers and enablers.

Afloat.ie Team

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