FOUR-TIME OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALLIST BEN AINSLIE HAS CREATED HIS DREAM SAILING TEAM WITH A SHADE OF GREEN.
<b>Photos</b> Harry KH/Land Rover BAR
BEN AINSLIE may not have brought the America’s Cup back to Britain, but he has succeeded in pioneering a forward-looking, environmentally friendly sailing team – not an easy task in the cut-throat world of professional sailing.
Although the 35th America’s Cup is behind us, the Land Rover BAR (Ben Ainslie Racing) team has good reason to be proud, not just of its on-water performance but for its green efforts before, during and after its campaign.
Conceived by Ainslie, the fourtime Olympic gold medalist and 34th America’s Cup winner (when he was still with Oracle), the team was founded on June 10, 2014 with the aim of bringing the trophy back to where the races began more than 160 years ago. With Ainslie’s team impressing in Bermuda and the Land Rover BAR Academy winning the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, Land Rover BAR is living proof that a green ethos isn’t just rhetoric.
Amy Munro, Land Rover BAR’s Sustainability Manager, said: “We take our position as a role model in society seriously. We know businesses like us need to take the lead, act fast and work together in order to reduce global carbon emissions by 80 per cent in the next 30 years.”
Lessons from forefathers
Following examples set by the London 2012 Olympics, FIFA and NASCAR, Land Rover BAR is vigilant in its carbon footprint with the help of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), which studies the environmental and financial impacts associated with all stages of a product’s life from cradle to grave. Its clients include Apple, Unilever and Xerox.
On top of checking off obvious boxes like eliminating single-use plastic water bottles and introducing car sharing, LCA’s involvement means the team’s RIBS are now made with recycled PET plastic, natural flax fibres and bio-based resin – slashing costs and carbon use on the way.
In addition, chase boats’ engines were upgraded for fuel efficiency; the two docking RIBS in and around the harbour will be replaced with electric engines; and, for the first time in the industry, the team brought in virtual chase boats.
Inspired by virtual safety cars commonly used in Formula One, existing race boats are fitted with cameras and sensors to supply coaches, designers and analysts with the data they need to monitor and enhance performance anywhere around the world. This removes the need for a dedicated design vessel and for the respective teams to relocate.
Contrary to many other yacht developers, Ainslie isn’t afraid to share his technology. In fact, education is a component his people hold dearest.
<b>Low carbon solar panels at Land Rover BAR Portsmouth.</b>
<b>The 11th Hour Racing Exploration Zone.</b>
In 2016 alone, his team was involved in more than 180 technical marine seminars and outreach activities during the America’s Cup World Series. At the Portsmouth stop, for example, 200 young people were invited to the Race Village to make boats from recycled materials.
“Ahead of and during the Cup in Bermuda, we wanted a space where we could offer behind-the-scenes access to the team and some of our sustainability projects,” Munro explained.
“In February, along with the team’s exclusive sustainability partner, 11th Hour Racing, we opened The 11th Hour Racing Exploration Zone at the team base.”
She added that pre-Cup sessions attracted 2,000 visitors – including 1,800 from school groups and 200 from local communities – while there were 6,000 visitors during the Cup itself.
“Through interactive exhibits and lesson plans, the visitors really got a sense of how the team use technology and innovation to not only make the boats go faster but also to create long-term sustainable solutions and protect the environment. They learnt about the circular economy, renewable energy and then how to reduce food miles by planting tomato seeds. We are really proud to have left a lasting legacy on the island.”
At home in Portsmouth, Land Rover BAR has built a green base that adheres to a high BREEAM standard – the British equivalent of LEED – meaning 20 per cent of its power comes from solar panels atop a nearby public school and the rest from a renewable electricity supplier.
Inside, only LED lights are installed and rainwater is collected for the washing of boats and equipment as well as watering the urban garden, which supplies local produce and herbs for chefs and is home to six solitary bee houses.
Ainslie’s green legacy leaves little untouched, even in the stomachs of his staff. Fridges are stocked with responsibly sourced foods and meat is taken off the menu on Mondays.
Reaching a little further out, oysters were saved from a dredge site and hosted on the team’s pontoon. To date, their survival rates have exceeded expectations.
Even their garbage, however minimal, has a higher calling. Last year, all non-hazardous materials stayed out of landfills and seven tonnes of waste was repurposed into something useful. Old sails, for instance, were reimagined into giveaway souvenirs like bags, pencil cases and wallets.
Although roadblocks were still prevalent especially when implementing recycling and filtration systems for ACWS events, last October Ainslie’s dedication contributed to a first unanimous 10-point Team Sustainability Charter between the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) and all six teams.
One of the resulting collaborations was the Lionfish Legacy Project, a campaign that raised awareness for the havoc caused on Bermudan reefs by the predator fish, highlighted by a chef cook-off on April 19 showcasing the species as the main ingredient.
“All the team’s partners play a critical role in supporting the team’s sustainability ethos and together we identified five key behaviours that have some of the biggest impacts on climate change. We’re encouraging those around the team to promote them to stakeholders and help make a difference,” Munro said.
“Collectively, we highlighted and promoted one behaviour each week of racing during the Cup. These are simple practices that can be incorporated into daily life.”
The rudimentary list includes avoid plastic use, recycle, adopt meat-free Mondays, promote renewable energy and choose sustainable foods.
Even if some of their efforts are simple and their impacts a mere ripple in the sea, Ainslie and his team can only hope the industry will eventually follow his footsteps and walk the talk.
“It’s about rethinking the way you approach things and preplanning,” Munro said. “All it takes is to start with one thing.”