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Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille: Towards an Eco-friendly Regatta

by Laura Muma 10 Apr 08:00 PDT 14-20 April 2019
Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille 2019 © Christophe Jouany

For its 10th edition and building upon the great work from the Collectivity of St. Barth with the Assises de l'Environnement (Environment Symposium), which took place on the island last December, the organizers of Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille are committed to make the event as clean, ethical and eco-friendly as possible.

"In our region, we are particularly affected by the phenomena linked to climate change, such as hurricanes and Sargasso weed, which are a genuine scourge, both for our island and for the health of its residents. Last year, we were focused on the recovery from Irma's devestation, but it is now time to think about the future and take action to preserve this idyllic environment as much as possible," said the organizer of Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille, François Tolède.

"We're lucky enough to live in an exceptional environment and organize races on a fabulous location," said the Race Director, Luc Poupon. "We must preserve this paradise and we must lead by example."

Leading by example involves practical measures, such as the elimination of plastics, whose contribution to the pollution of the oceans has become a major challenge for the planet. Over 100,000 creatures of the deep (fish, marine mammals and shellfish) die each year as a direct result of ingesting plastic waste in the oceans. If the use of plastic, and notably single-use plastics, continues on the track of the 2017 figures, by 2050 the oceans will contain as much plastic waste as fish.

Thanks to the support of the 11th Hour Racing organization, the Sailor for the Sea association and the Agence Territoriale de l'Environnement de Saint-Barthélemy, Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille has put in place various environmental actions.

Working Towards a Zero Plastic Goal

Moving towards zero plastic requires its use to be limited as far as possible, whilst favoring reusable or recyclable equipment. One example is that the event has replaced disposable cups with eco cups, eliminated drinking straws and plastic bags, and will exclusively use biodegradable materials.

"Thanks to reusable cups and pocket ashtrays distributed free of charge, it is easier to leave a clean site in the visitors' wake," said Tolède. "Though we won't be able to offer an entirely zero-plastic village this year, the end goal is to achieve just that. We notably hope to install giant water fountains to completely rule out the use of plastic bottles within a matter of years."

Catering: Local and Eco-friendly

The ambition for Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille is that the food served and sold in the race village and during associated events is as sustainable as possible. This involves a study of each stage of the process and a review of what 'sustainable food' means on a local level.

By working in close collaboration with the caterers, the aim is to encourage and guarantee the inclusion of sustainable development protocols, thanks to the implementation of seasonal, biological, local or fair-trade produce.

Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille is also committed to ensuring that all the containers used during the event come from ethical sources that respect the environment.

Raising Awareness Among Racers to encourage Behavior Change

An event gathers together numerous participants in one place, making it a great opportunity to raise awareness about the issue of waste, convey a message and also brainstorm any actions that can be undertaken on an individual basis.

"Our aim is not about making people feel guilty, rather it is about raising awareness. The majority of the sailors participating in Les Voiles are already aware and ultimately we hope that all these actions, which may seem like constraints today, begin to feel normal and natural as they are applied all over the world! We're on an island so the project is particularly ambitious, but the whole thing is about trying to make a difference," explains Poupon.

To continue the sailors' education, the event will prominently display informational boards with eco-friendly suggestions, ocean health preservation, and how to respect the marine flora and fauna, like the whales, which are particularly abundant in the Caribbean at this time of year.

Actions with schools

In association with their partner Caisse d'Epargne CEPAC, the organizers of Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille are offering a series of conferences throughout the week for schoolchildren from the island's primary schools, with 5 students from the ENS, the INSA and the OceaSciences association, who will be presenting their Exploragyr project, a year-long yacht-based scientific adventure with an ecological vocation.

In fact, their research focuses on microplastics. For now, no antidote has been found and the latter is concentrated at the heart of the gyre, a large circular marine current. Their aim is to provide crucial knowledge in the struggle to combat plastic pollution in the marine environment, as well as share it with the widest possible audience, and children in particular.

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