the right thing

While sailing and yacht racing is oftentimes billed as a sport that is green by nature, it’s no secret that building a modern race boat is an intensely dirty, wasteful, unsustainable game. So we were stoked to stumble across this recently released video by the 11th Hour Racing team outlining many of the ways that the team is working – in conjunction with Brittany’s renowned builder CDK Technologies – to reduce waste and the associated environmental impacts of building their new IMOCA.

Overseen by 11th Hour’s Sustainability Manager Damian Foxall, the team is evaluating their new IMOCA build process through a fine-toothed comb to reduce waste and environmental impact where possible. “We are going to be measuring every step of the build process to understand what the full environmental impacts of the build are, and so we have an intern student from the local university who is working with CDK on recovering that data… so that we can understand what those impacts are”, says Foxall. 

One of the most obvious solutions to reduce waste was to re-use building materials. Every time that a layer of carbon goes down, there is a ton of plastic involved with bagging and peel-ply materials, and so the team is recovering those plastics and re-using them wherever possible. Likewise, carbon off cuts and extra pre-preg materials are sent back to carbon recyclers and manufacturers to be re-used.

“What we need to do is get that to a scale which is relevant and valuable enough for those carbon recyclers. And so with CDK, with the other manufacturers, with the IMOCA class, and other teams in the area we’re already having these discussions, how can we make this happen?”, Foxall further explains. The team is even sending cardboard packaging materials back to Spain and saving some three thousand euros a year by doing so!

Another way to reduce environmental impact and achieve greater sustainability is to get away from using carbon fiber completely and switch to more naturally occurring and sustainable materials such as flax. In a move that reflects new rules changes and innovations that are taking place in sports such as Formula 1, 11th Hour Racing is experimenting with building two versions of various parts – one out of carbon and one out of flax fiber – and then evaluating the actual differences between the two; weight, cost, performance and environmental impact.

These small incremental changes and gains already appear to be permeating the culture at CDK and their suppliers. Hopefully, this will translate to tangible gains and an industry-wide movement towards a cleaner and more sustainable future. On the part of 11th Hour Racing, we’re happy to see that their efforts at sustainability are proving to be more than just marketing hyperbole and that they are making real efforts to run a more sustainable campaign.  – Ronnie Simpson.