it’s not the world cup

I saw this sign on a friend’s Facebook thread referring to parents at a kid’s football (soccer) match and thought perhaps a sector of youth sailing where it could also apply. Yes, Oppie Mums, I am talking about you. It also got me to thinking about the environmental impact of our sport, particularly with kids sailing and higher-end regattas around the planet.

At many regattas, there are almost as many stink boats on the water as there are sailing boats.
How on earth can our sport claim to be ‘green’ when the RIB park almost numbers more boats than the dinghy park.

‘Oh, but we need to coach our sailors between races’ comes the answer. You are so ineffective as coaches that your charges cannot remember your words or lessons for a whole day without being reminded?
This is a problem, not only for the environment but also for the organizers of major regattas. Not only are they expected to provide vessels for committee boats, safety, umpires (or on the water Judges) mark layers, etc but also coach boats for the sailor’s support persons who frequently encroach closer to the race area than is permitted – oh dear needing more RIBs for the marshalls to keep them back or provide a distraction to those running the racing.

A 100 boat regatta requires a 100 boat RIB fleet leading to a sourcing headache, especially in less developed nations or areas. Plus a huge increase in costs – fuel, RIB rental, insurance and staff to ensure maintenance and fuelling and other ancillary issues.

It is good to see our governing body, World Sailing, being aware of sustainability with an award made alongside the Sailors of the Year Awards and the likes of Rule 47 (formerly Rule 55) regarding trash disposal but without real steps to reduce the environmental impact surely the award is little more than lipstick on a pig.

Just imagine how many litres of hydrocarbons (petrol and often 2 stroke oil) are burned at a 3 or 4-day regatta with the fleet of RIBs that accompany the competitors onto the water with the exhaust gases being fed directly into, and usually mixed with the water. With the world being concerned with the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere and plastic into the oceans multiple RIBs on a racecourse is not a good look.

If our sport (ie our governing body) wants to do something truly meaningful for the environment then a realistic and highly visible step would be to ban coach boats from the water at regattas of any level.
Of coaches would not be happy, they might need to re-think how they coach, they would likely squeak and squirm but it should not be a case of the tail wagging the dog.

It is so easy to blame someone else while we partake of our “environmentally friendly” sport, if of course, one discounts the amount of hydrocarbons that went into the hulls and sails, or how much electricity was used to smelt the aluminum for our masts. We cannot undo those elements but while World Sailing pats themselves on the back for Rule 47 and handing out sustainability awards pretending to be green our sport is still allowing the massive use of petroleum products on the racecourse.

The irony is you can be protested for using rubber bands on your spinnaker yet, while sitting at idle, your coach is putting the exhaust from 1-2 litres of fuel an hour into the water, start buzzing about and that could rise to 5-20 litres an hour and that doesn’t even include the rainbow water when they inevitably spill unburnt fuel from a haphazard refueling in a hurry to get out for the next race.

Are coaches really unable to impart enough into their sailors before they go down the launching ramp? And can’t parents let their offspring out on the water without following them there in a RIB?
If we really want to do something that shows we are ‘green’ and actually give a damn about our playground perhaps a good first step would be to somehow reduce the amount of “support craft” that seems to surround every major dinghy regatta in the world.

As I say, it is always so easy to talk about and blame someone else but isn’t it time we looked at our own back yard? – SS.