New for the 2022 Newport Bermuda Race: Environmentalists - Sailors for the Sea

New for the 2022 Newport Bermuda Race: Environmentalists

 February 14, 2022  | By: Jennifer Brett

In addition to all the usual crew positions—skipper, navigator, tactician—there’s a new choice for those registering for the 2022 Newport Bermuda Race: Environmentalist. This biennial event is a challenging, 635-mile offshore race from Newport, Rhode Island, to Bermuda, and this year, there will be roughly 200 boats at the start on June 17th!

In 2018, the NBR was a Certified Gold level Clean Regatta. For 2022—the Bermuda Race Green Team has their sights set on Platinum, signaling their commitment to the event’s sustainability efforts. We recently chatted with Chan Reis, veteran of nine Newport Bermuda races and a member of the event’s media team, about developing the Environmentalist crew position and what the goals are.

A crowd of spectators afloat and ashore at Castle Hill Inn watch the start in 2014 in a gentle northerly breeze. Daniel Forster/PPL photo

Sailors for the Sea: How did the idea for adding an onboard environmentalist as a crew position come about?

Chan Reis: Many organizations have environmental officers these days. It seemed a natural evolution to urge skippers to consider naming someone on their crew whose focus is green best practices. It’s not intended to be mandatory and seemed a simple way of shifting the focus for a Clean Regatta onboard each boat. The SailGate entry management system has a crew management tool that allows skippers to take this small step in naming an environmental steward. Overall, the results have been positive so far. 

SfS: What do you envision the person in this position would do, both in planning for the race and during?

CR: Like navigation, sail handling or tactics, building expertise in environmental best practices takes some knowledge and experience. Most sailors are environmentalists. It’s only a matter of degree. We hope our Bermuda Race environmental stewards will become familiar with the Sailors for the Sea Clean Regatta program and Green Boating Guide, and bring their energy and expertise to the planning, provisioning and maintenance process.

Our hope is to build and network the expertise, so that all sailors benefit from it. Historically, the Bermuda Race has infused a safety ethos on skippers and crews, and instilling an environmental ethos seems a natural step, given the amount of plastic showing up on beaches everywhere. We are trying to gather more data as well. Logging derelict marine debris on the racecourse is an objective, and the environmental steward seems the perfect focal point for this activity.

SfS: How many boats have named an environmentalist so far? Any feedback yet?

CR: With only a small amount of publicity, already we have about 20 skippers who have named a member of their crew as the onboard environmental steward. We have heard positive feedback from skippers of both large boats and small, veteran Bermuda Race sailors and those sailing in the race for the first time. Most of those we have heard from have spoken about focusing on meal prep to reduce the amount of throwaway plastic and reusable water bottles. Others have gone further to call attention to things that are easily overlooked like rigging tape, zip-ties or splicing leftovers that end up in the ocean. We had one environmental steward recommend a type of bilge pump discharge filter.  

SfS: How would you like to see this grow? Has it/will it spread to other events?

CH: We look at this as a small step that could easily spread to other events, racing and cruising. Paperless entry systems for races or cruises-in-company could easily incorporate the idea of onboard “environmental steward” to help plan events using the known best practices that Sailors for the Sea have promoted, and to coach crews, share tips and expertise, and be a voice for sustainability onboard and shoreside.

If you would like to join our Clean Regattas community, click here to learn more about the program and register your event. You can also view sustainability reports from previous years’ regattas in our report library.