Sustainability in the spotlight

By: Jane Swan, The Green Blue

Green Blue

Like the 49 million other internet followers logging on five times a day to the race tracker, The Green Blue is taking a virtually obsessive interest in the 2012-13 Vendée Globe, especially as we follow the progress of our Green Blue Ambassador Mike Golding in this, his fourth campaign.

We’d like to say we’re with him every step of the way, but sitting in a warm office in Hamble drinking coffee that seems a bit glib when we can’t even begin to imagine the mental and physical brutality that Mike and his fellow skippers are putting themselves through. A cruel dismast in the middle stages of the 2008-09 race dashed Mike’s hopes of first over the line back then, but he’s back more determined than ever to resolve unfinished business.

On Ecover 3 and now Gamesa, Mike’s passion for sustainability and his appreciation of the marine environment around him has been a constant theme in his racing, as have environmental interests woven into the Vendée Globe itself, from boat design to its use as a global platform for the promotion of marine conservation and sustainable technologies.

Radical rethinking

It was Ellen MacArthur’s brilliant second place on the podium with Kingfisher in the 2000-01 race, her sailing experience and the make-and-mend philosophy born of necessity in the middle of the ocean that prompted her vision of the Circular Economy.

When faced with running out of something, using less just buys you time – not a long term solution. So the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s push is for a radical rethink in design and production and a move away from a linear economy to one where design has disassembly at its heart so that materials can be recovered and reassembled without compromising quality.

In the 2008-09 race, we saw Brian Thompson fly the flag as Earthwatch Ambassador as part of Pindar’s commitment to the Earthwatch Corporate Environmental Responsibility Group, raising awareness of Earthwatch’s oceans programme and its marine and coastal science research.

In addition, Brian’s Bahrain Team Pindar Open 60 underwent a complete refit in an attempt to make the boat’s electricity consumption carbon-free through the use of solar PVs and wind generation, as well as gaining a performance advantage in being lighter without the usual hundreds of kilos of fuel needed for the 24,000 mile non stop circumnavigation.

Current efforts

Fast forward to 2012, and the Acciona 100% Ecopowered, skippered by Javier Sansó, claims to be the first IMOCA 60 racing yacht with 100% renewable-energy powered navigation, communications systems, hydraulics and engines.

His list of eco-kit makes for impressive reading: two 350w wind turbine generators, solar panels built into 12m of the yacht’s hull, and hydrodynamic power created by two 400w generators with propellers catching the energy from the yacht’s movement in the water; quite literally harnessing the power of nature and combining it with high performance technology.

And then we have the fact that the vast majority of the boats have had former lives under different skippers – Foncia to Maître CoQ and PRB to Akena to name but two, borne out of financial necessity in the main – but also a great case for ‘upcycling’ where safety and performance can’t be compromised.

Last but not least, the sponsors, without whom the boats wouldn’t even make it to the start line, are again showing an environmental flavour with Jean-Pierre Dick’s Virbac-Paprec 3, Paprec being a leading french recycling company; Zbigniew Gutkowski’s Energa, a leader in the renewable energy market in Poland; and of course Mike on Gamesa, a global leader in wind turbine technology.
Fast forward again to February 2013 and hoping that Mike’s unfinished business gets the outcome we’re all rooting for!

Caption: Mike Golding’s Gamesa is a platform for environmental sustainability.

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