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Sustainability is Fundamentally OK

by Karen Robertson 22 Nov 2019 05:02 PST

After being inspired by the excellent World Championship held in Auckland at the start of the year, the British OK class has taken the lessons learned from the Kiwis and have put in place their own Sustainability Policy and Action Plan aligned with the RYA Green Blue initiative.

With the UK class beginning to focus on the 2022 World championship to be held at Lyme Regis the action plan outlines the steps the class will take at events to encourage reuse of materials and resources, reduce waste where possible and ensure non reusable items are recycled where possible.

In many ways the OK is already well placed to lead the dinghy world in sustainability with boats remaining competitive in some cases for decades as the results at top events prove and the resurgence in the fleet of fast home built boats. At the recent world championships a 35 year old boat took third place, there were two home-built boats in the top ten and at the UK Nationals Terry Curtis sailed a boat that was older than some (human) members of the fleet into a respectable sixth place.

The resurgence in home built boats is down to the ground breaking work of Dan Leech who has produced a method of building a competitive OK from a 'flat pack'. The method starts with the builder getting locally-sourced plywood accurately laser cut using the CNC files purchased from Leech. These laser cut panels are first assembled into a stiff but easily assembled jig and the various panels and ribs are accurately slotted into place before being epoxied together to form the final boat. Using plywood from sustainable sources not only makes the boat easy to build for the amateur but avoids the need for large the large quantities of glass fibre, foam and resin needed to produce a professionally built foam sandwich boat.

While OK masts are now produced in carbon fibre, the class rules have avoided going down the road of either excessively expensive or fragile rigs and are to all intents and purposes virtually indestructible unless involved in a serious incident and a mast will last for many, many years. The class has also chosen to remain using Dacron sails and avoided the move to laminate sailcloth that many classes have made.

Although this can be seen as old fashioned the reasons for remaining with white sails are simple; they are generally cheaper than laminate sails and avoids an arms race into some of the more complex methods of sailcloth construction, they do not suffer from the sometimes severe shrinkage seen in laminate sails, and they remain competitive for longer all of which add to the overall sustainability of the class while keeping costs reasonable.

The key points of the OK sustainability action plan:

  • The sustainability policy will become a core value of the class, will be displayed prominently on the website and all members will be informed and encouraged to use the guidelines.
  • NOR and Sis will only be published online and only one copy will be displayed on event notice boards to reduce paper use. Communications will predominantly via the website, email and social media to further reduce the use of paper and the environmental cost of delivery.
  • The class will encourage competitors to double/triple trail where possible with the aid of social media and online resources to enable potential attendees to work together in minimising the carbon footprint in getting to events. Where feasible at longer duration events, the class will look at the potential for transporting competitors to and from the venue rather than individual cars.
  • Welcome packs at events will only contain recyclable and reusable products.
  • The use of reusable water bottles is to be encouraged by using onsite sources of drinking water or via water butts. We will ask competitors to ensure that water bottles, snacks, sponges etc are fastened to the boat so these items don't get washed overboard.
  • We will encourage the use of dedicated slipways so banks and beaches are not unduly disturbed or eroded. Wash-off facilities will be supplied where feasible so that all gear can be thoroughly cleaned after sailing to remove flora and fauna to reduces the likelihood of cross-contamination by invasive species.
  • Where the class is in control of catering the use of locally-sourced food and use reusable/recyclable plates etc will be used along with segregated waste bins.
  • We will encourage litter picks at open meetings.

For more details of the OK class, it's new sustainability policy and how to build a competitive boat at home contact the class association either via the class website or find us on Facebook.

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