Your Sustainability Challenges, Solved - Sailors for the Sea

Your Sustainability Challenges, Solved

 February 21, 2024  | By: Jennifer Brett

We often hear from Clean Regatta organizers about the sustainability challenges they encounter while striving to implement best practices during their events. Solutions typically arise from experiences at other Clean Regattas, and we’re excited to share some of the innovative approaches these organizers have devised! Here are the top four sustainability challenges faced by Clean Regatta organizers, along with some creative solutions. What would you add to the list? Drop us a line and let us know.

Formula Kite European Championships
Providing water to windsurfers and kite surfers while they’re on the course can be challenging.

Best Practice #1: Eliminate Single-Use Water Bottles and Provide Water Refill Stations

Challenge: Ensuring hydration for sailors and volunteers, especially in hot climates while on the water.

While this best practice may seem straightforward, it presents its own set of challenges. One of the primary concerns for regatta organizers is how to maintain a supply of cold water for sailors, coaches, and volunteers while they’re out on the course.

A solution observed at the Youth Sailing World Championships in Corpus Christi, Texas, involved equipping race committee boats, coach boats, and support boats with 5-gallon water jugs fitted with hand pumps (dolphin pumps). To combat the scorching 98ºF temperatures, organizers placed the 5-gallon jugs in trash cans surrounded by ice.

For competitors who couldn’t carry water bottles with them, a different approach was taken. “The windsurfers presented a challenge because they couldn’t bring water bottles on their boards. For windsurfers and emergency situations, World Sailing purchased 500 reusable water bottles, which were kept filled and iced. These bottles were thrown to windsurfers between races for hydration and then returned to the support boat. They were washed by hand in the evenings and reused the next day. Additionally, these water bottles served as emergency supplies on other courses for competitors who forgot their reusable bottles.”

Alternatively, 10-gallon Igloo insulated drink dispensers could be installed on coach boats, or a stationary “water boat” could be made available for sailors to access between races.

Best Practice #3: Serve Food with Plastic-Free Dinnerware

Challenge: Lack of dishwashing facilities.

While transitioning to reusable dishes is ideal, it’s not always feasible due to constraints such as a lack of dishwashing facilities or storage space.

Alternatives require creativity and depend on the event and budget. For instance, during the Women’s World Match Racing Tour at the Royal Danish Yacht Club (KDY), meals were hosted at a separate venue, which was equipped with reusable items.

Or forgo dishes entirely: some meals, like sandwiches or pizza, only require a paper wrapper or napkins.

At the Thistle Oyster Roast Regatta in Annapolis, Maryland, Thistle Fleet 34 provided “reusable mugs, canning jar glasses, metal silverware, and, new this year, reusable plates. Since the Severn Sailing Association’s clubhouse has only a small kitchen, our reusable items are stored in bins at a Fleet member’s home.”

If compostable dishes are considered, it’s advisable to avoid bioplastic items and opt for those made from bamboo or uncoated paper.

food in bamboo dish
If you’re considering compostable dishware, choose bamboo or uncoated paper.

Best Practice #12: Divert Food Waste from the Landfill

Challenge: Lack of composting facilities or access to an industrial composter.

Fortunately, there are several ways to meet this best practice. One straightforward approach is to minimize or eliminate food waste entirely. This was demonstrated at the 2023 Formula Kite European Championship in Portsmouth, UK. “Due to efficient event management, very little, if any, food waste was generated. Lunches for staff and volunteers were ordered based on demand, and any remaining packs were either taken home by onsite personnel or given to athletes. Catering vendors at the event, selected for their sustainability efforts, sold out of food over the finals weekend.”

Meal time after racing at the Mullaghmore Regatta
Embrace leftovers! The delicious food provided by club members for the Saturday dinner became Sunday’s lunch as well.

We also love the ingenuity of the Green Team at the Mullaghmore Regatta in Co. Sligo, Ireland, when they devised an impromptu leftover Sunday lunch. “Our green team worked diligently on Saturday night and decided that the leftovers were too good to go to waste. So, we had a leftover Sunday lunch! Everything was devoured, resulting in a fantastic outcome.”

Other approaches include donating untouched food items to local food banks or offering food scraps to nearby farms.

Challenge: Making Sustainability Sustainable

Some clubs or fleets struggle to maintain momentum in Clean Regattas, especially if key advocates for sustainability initiatives leave the organization. Alternatively, you might be struggling with gaining any traction on launching green initiatives.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to this challenge, we can share strategies that have proven effective for other organizations:

Kids do a beach clean up during Marblehead Junior Race week, a Clean Regatta
The kids take the sustainability initiative during Marblehead Junior Race Week.
  • Form a committee: At Eastport Yacht Club in Annapolis, Maryland, sustainability is a focal point, thanks to the efforts of a dedicated Environmental Committee. Visit their website to learn more about how they’ve integrated green initiatives into various club operations.
  • Commit to sustainability: Organizations that have successfully implemented long-term sustainability initiatives have embedded a commitment to green practices into their operations. This commitment should include plans for appointing new committee members as needed. An example of how this might work on the class level is the Thistle Class Association. Thanks to the dedication of a few passionate Thistle sailors, the Thistle Class became the first Sailors for the Sea Clean Class, integrating sustainability into class culture and operations.
  • Involve youth: Junior sailors can be catalysts for change. Engage them in Green Teams and consider appointing them to environmental committees. Pleon Yacht Club, the world’s oldest junior yacht club located in Marblehead, Massachusetts, exemplifies the impact motivated young sailors can have. They embraced our Clean Regattas program over 15 years ago and have since championed many best practices year-round.

These are just a few Clean Regatta sustainability challenges and solutions. We encourage you to look through the sustainability reports from Platinum Level Clean Regattas to learn how they tackled the best practices and see if you can apply their ideas to your event. Still have questions? Reach out anytime – we are happy to help!