After talking with Alexandra about catching up at the start of the SailGP in Sydney, it was great to finally sit down in Marseille and chat about sustainability and her own sailing. Alex has been tasked with finding practical solutions for the SailGP to leave less of an impact environmentally, and really drive change not just for the SailGP, but for other similar events.
For the SailGP it starts from the top with management and in the SailGP office, to onsite at events; encouraging less single-use plastic with water fountains, no cable ties, no straws, re-useable glasses at the bar, no plastic tie downs, and branding changes.
With technology another focus of the SailGP, there is a big shift towards electric marks with technology that is being trialled through "Mark Bots", even electric boats, and how the event can become zero carbon by 2025 in line with the World Sailing Event Charter and the UN Sport for Climate Agreement, both of which they have signed.
In line with this, there has been a big focus on temporary power provisions and at the Cowes event vegetable oil was used in all generators, which reduced the SailGP footprint by over 90%. More use of alternative fuels and expansion of these technologies are expected in the future.
The SailGP organisation is young, and tech focussed, so very different to other organisations in Alexandra’s opinion, especially in terms of sustainability, as crazy ideas are all positive and the doors are open to many things. Through this mindset and the implemented changes, SailGP wants to lead change in other sports.
Alexandra herself is looking to get a solar panel for her wheelchair trike attachment, as a tetraplegic and Paralympic sailor for three Olympic games, her interests have always been as a self-professed “enviro nerd”. Her background was working in oil and gas, and environmental science and technology. Especially after Alex saw the impacts of a Games on a city in Rio in 2016, on retiring from Olympic sailing, the SailGP and helping to create change is an important position for her.
There is also a big focus from sailors within the circuit, from joining the climate action marches and being activists themselves, to other organisations being created to help sailors. For example, Billy Besson suggested a sustainability start-up festival in the village in Marseille, which was a great success and the team of environmental warriors that are the sailors are making a lot more suggestions to the team in their local areas.
Within SailGP itself, everyone is up for the challenge and I believe that this focus on sustainability is very positive for our sport, and a great example to all events to have the same foundation in driving the change towards carbon free events.