Red Ruby Racing's Commitment to Sustainability in Cap Martinique Race - Sailors for the Sea

Skippers Corner: A Low-Impact Crossing

 June 18, 2024  | By: Jennifer Brett

On May 6, 2024, Sailors for the Sea Skipper Chris Wolfe and her husband and sailing partner, Justin, crossed the finish line of the transatlantic Cap Martinique race. After three weeks at sea, they crossed the finish line in Martinique 10th out of 40 double-handed boats. Incredibly, this was only about an hour out of 6th place. In a typical offshore race, this might be the only achievement that is proudly promoted and celebrated. But the Cap Martinique isn’t a typical offshore race.

The Cap Martinique race takes environmental responsibility seriously, a point that appealed to Chris and Justin. We caught up with them recently to discuss the race and how Red Ruby Racing, (Chris and Justin’s team), considered their impact and the environmental achievements that they are equally proud of, and the race organizers encouraged.

Justin and Chris Wolfe as they cross the finish line in Martinique

Racing for a Cause

First held in 2022, the Cap Martinique race is a biennial event that requires each team to sail for a cause that, according to the Notice of Race, “provides community support and/or contributes to sustainable development.”

Team Red Ruby Racing chose to sail for Sailors for the Sea. “Justin and I are really excited to participate in this race, and we are racing for Sailors for the Sea,” Chris said. “We’ve been long-time supporters of this organization because we care very much for the oceans and waters where we get to do our passion – racing sailboats.”

Managing Trash and Plastic

The Cap Martinique enforces stringent plastics and waste management rules: no single-use plastic water bottles on the boats, no waste disposal at sea, and no trash can be left in Martinique – it all had to go back to France (most of the boats are being shipped back post-race). As a small island in the Eastern Caribbean, Martinique lacks the infrastructure to handle an influx of trash and recycling from 60 boats that have been at sea for three weeks. With this in mind, teams provisioned to keep waste at an absolute minimum.

Three weeks at sea only produced two small bags of trash, a bin of cans for recycling and about 50 wrappers to send back to Mountain House.

Chris and Justin supplemented their fresh supplies, which included French treats like crepes, cheeses and farmer’s market sausages, with packets of freeze-dried meals from Mountain House. They chose Mountain House because the company accepts returned pouches for recycling. Red Ruby sent back 50 pouches and had just two small bags of trash and a small bin of cans for recycling after 21 days at sea. “There were definitely not the piles of trash and recycling at the marina in Martinique like there are at the end of most long races,” noted Chris.

For their water supply, Chris and Justin relied on the 32 gallons in the boat’s tank for their cooking and drinking needs. Showers? Those had to wait. “We probably only used three quarters of our water, maybe less, and then went through it in the last few days,” Chris said. “Partly because we knew we could, but it also got so much hotter that our consumption went way up.”

Energy Management

When sailing shorthanded, sailors rely heavily on an autopilot, typically the largest power draw on the boat. Keeping the batteries charged is essential for this system, as well as for lights and navigation. Offshore sailors tend to use a mix of ways to keep the batteries charged, which could include the engine alternator, a genset, and alternative methods such as solar, wind or water.

While Red Ruby has an engine, the team didn’t want to carry the extra fuel that would have been needed to run it and keep the batteries charged. They chose to primarily rely on a solar array, and had 350 watts of solar power from six panels: one 100W and five 50W. The panels were thin and flexible and could be moved to wherever they were most efficient. This way they used less than 13 gallons of fuel for charging purposes over their 4,000 nautical mile journey. “I think this is a win-win for racing sailors because you save weight by not having as much fuel,” Justin said.

Not pretty, but very effective. Red Ruby only used 10 gallons of fuel for crossing.