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TOPtoTOP and Topper Learn to Dream sail the Arctic

by John Heyes 3 Mar 10:03 PST
Global Climate Expedition TOPtoTOP © TOPtoTOP.org

Competitors at the Topper 2019 World Championships will remember the Swiss family from TOPtoTOP, the global climate expedition, whose mission it is to inspire youth to save our planet. Sabine, Andri and Noé all raced in the championships in Medemblik and father Dario led a workshop session for the sailors on the expedition that over the past 20 years has circumnavigated the globe aboard their yacht 'Pachamama'.

The expedition conducts field-based research for universities and scientists, visiting the world's most remote regions and their native inhabitants, sharing examples of innovative solutions to protect, preserve and conserve our planet. Their key messages are climate protection and to enjoy the environment through sport, whilst also giving something back to nature.

Team leader Dario Schwoerer contacted ITCA World recently from their current location 70 degrees North at Lyngen in northern Norway, about their latest project to help Inuit teenagers in Eastern Greenland and Sámi youngsters in the Arctic with the mental health crisis that many face, as they increasingly lose their traditional ways of life through climate change.

Dario explained how the Inuit families living in isolation on Greenland's eastern coast are losing their traditional hunting ways as the lack of sea ice and the dramatic rise in micro plastics within the Arctic Circle waters makes seal hunting virtually impossible.

To replace the adrenaline buzz of hunting, youngsters are increasingly turning to computer games and drugs, and child abuse is also prevalent. Whilst eco-tourism is starting to grow in Greenland and Iceland and could become an alternative income for the Inuit, the young people need a new perspective to develop careers in this field.

TOPtoTOP's vision is to give the youngsters a healthier outlook and engage them in outdoor activities that could lead them into careers as sailing instructors, hiking guides and climbing instructors. Dario wants to teach Inuit youngsters to learn to sail and through sailing keep them in touch with their ocean environment in an effort to help with the mental health crisis that many face as they increasingly lose their traditional ways of life. The Topper, with it's green and sustainable credentials is the perfect boat for youth sailing and so Dario approached ITCA World for help.

The Proctor family, (of the Topper designer Ian Proctor), saw the close fit between the project's ambition and existing Topper 'Learn to Dream' programme, where redundant boats from affluent nations are sent in their raw state alongside reactivation kits to partner amateur sports clubs and trusts in countries designated as Emerging Nations by World Sailing. Training is given to the local organisations and their underprivileged sailors on how to reactivate the boats, whilst also them giving them work experience and a skills transfer that can ultimately lead to a career in marine engineering or boatbuilding.

As a result, Ian Proctor Designs kindly agreed to step in and provide 2 Topper dinghies, one reactivated (a 1980 boat, sail No. 10000) and a second newer boat. They will be shipped from Tilbury to Norway at the end of February.

Roger Proctor explained, "The TOPtoTOP project is a real opportunity for Arctic communities to become engaged in sailing. At present there is a very high suicide rate amongst Inuit teenagers who have lost their traditional way of life and their only outlet is online. We believe that Topper sailing could offer them a real 'lifeline'. Hence, we are donating 2 boats in order to get people sailing as Dario and his family visit different communities on their travels and teach them to sail. The Learn to Dream project can then build on this initiative, suppling more boats to be reactivated to help build sustainable sailing centres, giving the local youth new reasons to build a future on the ocean and a pathway to new career".

Whilst sailing the Arctic, Dario has set up a sailing centre in Lyngen where he has trained up instructors to teach the Sámi youngsters not just the basics of how to sail, but also to develop the endurance and power sailing requires from skiing and climbing sessions, combined with teaching the rules and strategy via chess board lessons from a chess master. Dario's long-term goal is to bring the Topper World championships to Lyngen one year, where despite the high latitude the water is warmed by the Gulf Stream, reaching 9-12 degrees in the summer.

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