A partnership between the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and the Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) was confirmed at the Solo Racing Festival held at the Royal Southern Yacht Club in Hamble, UK, over the weekend.
This ground breaking initiative will include a green mandate for GOR teams during the double-handed, Class40 round the world race; a drive to raise awareness of collisions between yachts and whales; an international education program and vital research and data collection by the GOR teams throughout the circumnavigation.
For the past 27 years, the EIA – a UK-based environmental organization – has been responsible for triggering change in international law and government policy through hard-hitting campaigns and projects, positioning the EIA as one of the most successful conservation groups in the world. While the agency often works undercover when exposing the illegal trade of wildlife and timber or the traffic of ozone depleting substances, a partnership with the GOR is the focus of an ambitious campaign to emphasize irreversible threats to the marine environment.
Jennifer Lonsdale, Director of the EIA, outlined the alliance at the Solo Racing Festival: 'This is an exciting new opportunity to set high standards for environmental responsibility among the sailing community,' Lonsdale confirmed. 'We hope that standards set by the Global Ocean Race will be adopted by other race organizers and sailing clubs around the world.'
For Josh Hall, Race Director of the GOR, the EIA-GOR partnership is crucial: 'It is almost impossible to overstate the importance of our oceans and the effect they have on the overall health of our planet,' he believes. 'Offshore sailors have the privilege and challenge of sailing across vast, remote areas of the sea and often witness, first-hand, signs that the wellbeing of our precious marine environment is under threat.'
For Lonsdale one of the key features of the alliance is the increasing incidence of whale strikes: 'Collisions between whales and sailing yachts threaten the lives of both whales and sailors and can cause catastrophic damage to vessels,' she explained. 'The EIA-GOR partnership aims to increase awareness of this threat and to work with the international sailing community, scientists and experts to find ways to prevent collisions.' The EIA operate a non-blame policy for whale strikes and reports of collisions or whale sightings and species identification by GOR teams will assist important scientific research.
The GOR teams will be racing in sea areas beyond the range and budget of research vessels and the potential for environmental information gathering is a powerful resource. 'Ocean sailors go to places other mariners do not,' Lonsdale commented. 'We wish to build a program of data collection to which the Global Ocean Race teams can contribute and enhance our knowledge of the oceans and the species inhabiting them.'
Although diverse ‘green’ marine strategies are already operating worldwide on a local level, the EIA-GOR program has an international reach and will deliver essential scientific data.
Josh Hall is an enthusiastic advocate: 'This partnership between the Global Ocean Race and the Environmental Investigation Agency is a vital alliance that will highlight crucial issues and help educate a new generation to the irreparable damage that may be inflicted on marine ecosystems,' says Hall. 'I sincerely hope it will encourage other offshore racing organizations to act responsibly, confront the impact our sport has on the oceans and assist with valuable scientific research,' he added. Global Ocean Race