Introducing: Clean Regattas 2020 - Sailors for the Sea

Introducing: Clean Regattas 2020

 November 18, 2019  | By: Oceana

Sustainability is a hot topic. The Earth is warming due to human activities, causing the seas to rise and acidify, threatening the health of our beloved oceans. The problem is well-publicized and often portrayed in the media as an insurmountable challenge. However, we disagree. By working together within our local communities, we can create significant change towards solving climate issues, including those factors that impact our oceans, such as plastic pollution and maintaining biodiversity. Instead of looking at ocean health as an insurmountable problem that can’t be solved, we want to introduce you to our revamped Clean Regattas sustainability certification program, set to officially launch in January 2020.

Clean Regattas has been Sailors for the Sea’s flagship program since our founding in 2004. Since then, well over 600,000 participants have attended a Clean Regatta, and the number of registered events has grown exponentially from year to year. In 2019 alone, over 500 regattas made the commitment to implement sustainable practices that decreased their events’ environmental footprint and educated participants on the importance of doing so in the process. The success of the program is entirely dependent on the commitment of our Clean Regatta organizers, participants and attendees. Today’s fast-paced, creative and ever-changing sphere of sustainability paired with organizers’ feedback on the program encouraged us to take a fresh look at the certification process. We couldn’t be more excited to share these changes!

sustainability, certification, regattas, sailing, events

We made these updates with capacity at the forefront of our minds. With Clean Regattas being hosted all over the world, we realize that there is a wide range of capabilities and constraints to consider when certifying an event to varying levels of sustainability. Thus, one of the first changes we made eliminates the requirement for fulfilling specific “Best Practices.” Instead, we’ve assigned point values to each Best Practice based on its intended impact and the level of effort required to fulfill it.

Take “eliminating plastic straws”, for example. We consider this Best Practice to require little effort but feel that it produces a mid-level impact on an event. It doesn’t take much to remove plastic straws and stirrers from the bar and inform participants of why they aren’t there, but it encourages attendees to think about other single-use plastic items that they could live without. Diverting food waste from the landfill, on the other hand, requires a greater amount of effort and coordination and has a much larger impact, with lots more opportunities to strengthen community involvement. As a result, diverting food waste from the landfill carries a higher score than eliminating plastic straws.

Each regatta will be awarded their certification level based on the percentage of points they earn. Concerned that your previous efforts will land you in a lower level? Fear not, we retroactively scored over 350 regattas to test the new scoring system and determine these new levels. The best part? Your certification level will be automatically calculated based on your selections, right on the registration page. No more looking back and forth between the Toolkit and your checkboxes to see what level your efforts have earned. The new benchmarks for Certification Levels are as follows.

clean regattas, certification, levels, bronze, silver, gold, platinum

Next, we narrowed down the number of Best Practices from 25 to 20 and eliminated “Sustainability Indicators” altogether, effectively streamlining the registration and certification process. Furthermore, these new Best Practices are all specific, action items – activities you can DO. These changes will help focus organizers’ efforts on the most impactful ways they can do right by the environment. Overall, we hope to make regatta organizers’ jobs much easier, whether it is their first time hosting a Clean Regatta or their tenth!

Liked having Sustainability Indicators as suggestions on ways to achieve Best Practices? Fret not! We’ve also made sweeping updates to the Toolkit, which now outlines a multitude of ways to achieve your regatta’s sustainability goals. Did you invent a new way to achieve a Best Practice? We can’t wait to hear about it!

Additionally, each Best Practice now falls under one of five, overarching “Sustainability Themes”. These interconnected, easy-to-remember principles are meant to help guide organizers throughout the event planning process.

sustainability, themes, clean regattas

We are also extremely excited about how the Best Practices and Sustainability Themes are presented. Before, there was a linear checklist. Now, in addition to the classic checklist, the Toolkit will boast a web-like visual which represents the interconnected nature of, well, nature! Find this, along with tons more new content, including signage, curated social media posts, and ways to get involved with Oceana’s campaigns, in our revamped Clean Regattas Toolkit!

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For all of our data junkies and science nerds out there wondering how we narrowed down our new set of Best Practices, we’d love to share our methods. We looked at three and a half years’ worth of Clean Regatta data, from January 2016 – July 2019. This time span allowed us to gather a large set of data and the ability to analyze trends over time. To come up with our new list of Best Practices, we looked at what Best Practices and Sustainability Indicators have been the most popular with regatta organizers over the years, and which ones have witnessed the most growth. The top 20 items in each of these two categories gave us insight for most of our new Best Practices. Items that didn’t make these top 20 lists such as, “divert food waste from the landfill”, “host a beach or marina clean-up”, and “promote alternative transportation” we believe have room to grow and can have a significant impact when executing an event.

If you like what you just read and want to help us test out the revamped program, please reach out to our Program Manager, Paige ( If you have any questions or concerns, we’d love to hear your feedback!