I have been known to be a little cynical about publicity stunts and for good reason but this one I kind of like. Greta Thunberg, a climate activist from Sweden has teamed up with my friend Boris Hermann in an interesting way.

They leave tomorrow to sail Boris’s IMOCA 60 Malizia II across the Atlantic to New York for the United Nations Climate Change Conference that will take place later this month.  Greta Thunberg is a climate activist who, at age 15, began protesting outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018 about the need for immediate action to combat climate change. Her “school strike for the climate” began attracting media attention and she has since become an outspoken climate activist. Her “school strike for climate movement” began in November 2018 and spread globally after the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December the same year.

On 15 March this year an estimated 1.4 million students in 112 countries around the world joined her call in striking and protesting. A similar event involving students from 125 countries took place in May. In July 2019, on behalf of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), secretary-general Mohammed Barkindo declared Thunberg, and other young climate activists as the “greatest threat” to the fossil fuel industry.

So clearly her message is resonating and being spread globally but now she finds herself in a conundrum. Greta wants to attend the UN Climate Change Conference but taking a plane is against her ethos because of the huge carbon footprint left by the airlines. Enter Boris Herrman.

Boris is an old friend and is not only a world class sailor, he is a very astute marketer. He won a race that I co-founded a decade ago – the first around-the-world-race for Class 40’s, solo and double-handed, and has since gone on to a very successful career as a professional sailor. He is the skipper of Malizia II which is sponsored by the Yacht Club De Moncao and he plans to use his yacht to compete in the 2020 Vendee Globe and 2021 The Ocean Race.

As most of these professional sailors know it’s all about driving eyeballs and you need to keep in the spotlight. I don’t know the details of how this came about but Greta is hitching a ride across the Atlantic with Boris and his crew. Malizia II is powered by wind turbines and solar panels and as such will leave very little or no carbon footprint allowing Greta to claim that she will be the only person that made it to the conference without damaging the climate.

Ok that’s a little too cute by half because one must ask how much emissions were emitted in the building of the boat and how is she getting back home to Sweden? After two weeks on an IMOCA 60 with freeze dried food, no way to shower and a bucket on deck for a toilet I am not sure that she will be up for another crossing. But in all it’s a good publicity stunt and I commend both Greta and Boris for the effort.

Every little bit helps as we are rapidly ruining this little blue marble that we call home.- Brian Hancock.