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Celebrating Sir Robin, Earth Day and a cleaner vision for our planet

by David Schmidt 23 Apr 2019 16:00 BST April 23, 2019
Sir Robin pictured in 1969 crossing the finish line in Golden Globe Race © Bill Rowntree / PPL Media

April 22 is an important day for all sailors, starting first with the fact that it is internationally celebrated as Earth Day, followed quickly by the fact that on April 22, 1969, the great Sir Robin Knox-Johnston became the first person to sail solo and unassisted non-stop around the world to win the 1968-1969 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. This means that this week marks both the 50th anniversary of Sir Robin's mind-bending accomplishment (read: 1968 levels of technology, navigation and communications technology) and an opportunity for people and communities great and small to consider ideas and solutions for lowering our species' collective environmental wake.

Not surprisingly, this latter challenge isn't going so well for Team Planet Earth right now, at least not if one views plastic in the ocean, soaring global temperatures, and glacier and ice-pack melt-off as canaries in our collective coal mine. However, there are positive steps being taken by forward-leaning people inside and outside of the sailing world, and there's plenty of remaining leeway for the rest of us to do our bit to help.

For example, word is spreading about a new technique that's emerging in Rhode Island to turn tired old fiberglass boats into cement, an economically viable technology is being developed in British Columbia, Canada, for removing carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere, and entire Caribbean island nations have banned single-use plastics (bags, straws, drinking cups, et al) in an effort to clean up their acts.

While these bold acts should be encouraged and adopted globally, there's zero reason to stop there, or to limit one's thinking to the end-of-life phase for boats or plastic bags. For example, The Ocean Race (nee Volvo Ocean Race) just announced a partnership with 11th Hour Racing that's aimed at promoting ocean heath.

This new initiative is called "Racing with Purpose for Ocean Health", and will focus on a series of eleven different Ocean Summits, which will take place at The Ocean Race global stopovers, as well as a new education program, a new focus on onboard renewable energy products, and a continuation of the science program that was developed in the 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race.

"The sailing community has a deep connection with the sea so it's natural that we would work together to safeguard its future," said Johan Salen, Managing Director of The Ocean Race, in an official press release. "Through this partnership with 11th Hour Racing, and by harnessing the power of sport, we are using our collective global influence and extensive networks to reach millions of people to affect meaningful, long-term change for ocean health."

Sail-World applauds this collaboration between The Ocean Race and 11th Hour Racing, as well as all of the other great work that's being done to limit humanity's wear-and-tear on Planet Earth, and we sincerely encourage all sailors to consider grassroots changes to lower our collective waste, reduce our carbon-dioxide output, and-perhaps most poignantly for our sailing community: to commit to eliminating our dependence on single-use plastics.

It's a long uphill battle for sure, perhaps a lot like setting out, solo, on a 32-foot wooden boat with stars in one's eyes and a dream to sail all the way around the world entirely alone... but with the right level of commitment, old-fashioned gumption, and a bit of sailor-inspired ingenuity, there's no reason that our species can't turn the tide on a problem that we created.

As for Sir Robin, there's no question that this brilliant sailor opened the world's eyes to the possibilities - and the magic - of offshore sailing, and we find it especially fitting that he completed his journey on the same day that would be selected as Earth Day just one year after Suhaili's bow crossed the finishing line off of Falmouth, England.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

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