Celebrating 15 Years of Clean Regattas with 15 Outstanding Clubs and Events

By Paige Myatt

Fifteen years ago, five regattas in Massachusetts and Maine laid the groundwork for sustainable sailing events by joining Sailors for the Sea’s Clean Regattas program. Founders David Rockefeller, Jr. and Dr. David Treadway originally created the Clean Regattas program in the summer of 2006 to directly engage their network in the sailing community on ocean health issues. The program has continuously evolved over the years, along with our knowledge of the problems impacting our oceans and potential solutions. For example, we have shifted our focus from recycling as an effective solution to the plastic pollution crisis, to promoting reduction and reuse. The Clean Regattas sustainability certification process accounts for varying capacities and infrastructure of host clubs across the globe with the goal of improving the environmental impact of events and clubs. With more than 2,800 Clean Regattas reaching 750,000 sailors in 35 US states and 49 countries, the program has profoundly changed the way regattas are run around the world.

The growth and success of the Clean Regattas program is due to the dedication of Clean Regatta organizers who continuously bring sustainability to the forefront of their events. To celebrate the 15-year anniversary of Clean Regattas, Sailors for the Sea is highlighting 15 noteworthy events and clubs to take a sail down memory lane:

Standout Events

1. The Northeast Harbor Sailing School in Maine hosted the first ever Clean Regatta in the summer of 2006: the Northeast Junior Olympics. Since then, the Northeast Harbor Fleet has continued their commitment to the program, receiving Gold Level Clean Regattas certification for the past four years and developing a Green Policy for the club.

2. The 34th America’s Cup hosted in San Francisco, California earned the first ever Platinum Level Clean Regattas certification in 2013. Sailors for the Sea worked closely with the America’s Cup Event Authority to develop an extensive sustainability plan that included developing strong community partnerships, diverting waste from the landfill, offsetting carbon emissions, and eliminating single-use plastics.  

3. The Volvo Ocean Race Newport Stopover hosted by Sail Newport received Platinum Level Clean Regattas certification in 2015, and slingshot sustainability as a priority in the sport of sailing.  Over 130,000 people visited the race village that featured an interactive Exploration Zone with exhibits focused on ocean health to boost awareness of the issues facing our waters. This stopover was also home to the inaugural Ocean Summit, a now regular event that is integral to the Ocean Race’s sustainability program.

4. The 2018 Youth Sailing World Championships hosted by the Corpus Christi Yacht Club in Texas set the bar for many youth sailing programs, being the first World Sailing Championship to highlight sustainability. The Green Team worked tirelessly to ensure they addressed every detail, down to reusable zip ties and bamboo flag poles! They also successfully diverted nearly 90% of their waste from the landfill to recycling or composting. Their standout efforts earned them Platinum Level Clean Regattas certification as well as the inaugural World Sailing 11th Hour Racing Sustainability Award.

5. In Auckland, New Zealand, the Royal Akarana Yacht Club hosted the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 World Championships in 2019 and was the first regatta in the country to earn Platinum Level Clean Regattas certification. The Green Team leaders set ambitious goals and were able to achieve 100% of the Clean Regattas best practices. They created a perpetual trophy for Outstanding Environmental Contribution, which was upcycled from a piece of carbon mast that broke during a storm and awarded to Yago Lange, an inspiring environmental steward and 49er sailor from Argentina.

All-Star Clubs

6. Since 2014, the Eastport Yacht Club in Annapolis, Maryland has been an advocate of Clean Regattas, hosting 35 sustainable events. The Clean Regatta organizers have fostered enthusiastic support from their members which allowed them to institute a variety of sustainability initiatives permanently at their club, such as water refill stations, rainwater collection barrels, and oyster restoration projects. When regattas were not taking place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they hosted a socially-distanced trash-fishing tournament to continue making sustainability a priority.

7. Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club has hosted more than 40 events since they started participating in Clean Regattas in 2015. They developed a club-wide sustainability policy and established permanent changes, including working with vendors to minimize their environmental impact and educating their members on ocean health issues, leading to consistent Gold Level Clean Regattas certifications.

Longest Running Regattas

8. Marblehead Junior Race Week hosted by Pleon Yacht Club in Massachusetts has been a Clean Regatta for 12 years, earning the title of longest running Clean Regatta. Since 2007, event organizers steadily climbed the sustainability ladder and are aiming to achieve Platinum Level Clean Regattas certification this summer. Young sailors consistently look forward to vying for the event’s sustainability award, which recognizes sailors for picking the most trash out of the water or knowing the most ocean-based trivia.

9. The Mudhead Benefit Regatta hosted by Mystic River Mudhead Sailing Association in Connecticut has run 12 Clean Regattas since they first joined the program in 2009. Now, they are the go-to example for how the National Hospice Regatta Alliance can host sustainable events.

10. Nantucket Race Week hosted by Nantucket Community Sailing in Massachusetts has been certified as a Clean Regatta for 10 years since 2010. Sustainability is integral to the event, with initiatives such as providing locally sourced seafood and encouraging oil spill prevention. They thoroughly communicate their sustainability goals to attendees and include environmental language in their notice of race.

11. BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival hosted by the Royal British Virgin Islands Yacht Club has also been a certified Clean Regatta for 10 Years. With limited resources and waste infrastructure, the Royal BVI Yacht Club has incorporated unique sustainability initiatives, including upcycling beer bottles from the previous year’s event into the next year’s trophies.  

12. The Vineyard Cup hosted by Sail Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts is another event that has earned Clean Regatta certification for 10 years. Over the last several years, event organizers have been able to locally source food on the island and have had significant success minimizing their waste. Now the event only generates a small box worth of trash after feeding 900 meals to hungry sailors over the weekend-long event.

13. Charleston Race Week hosted by Charleston Ocean Racing Association in South Carolina has also been a Clean Regatta for 10 years. They provide water refill stations right on the docks, compost food scraps, and have been using reusable lunch bags for 10 years!

14. Antigua Sailing Week hosted by the Antigua Yacht Club has been a Clean Regatta for nine years, and has inspired thousands of sailors in the Caribbean to rethink how their sport impacts the environment. They clearly communicate their initiatives to participants on their sustainability page, such as responsible waste management and the use of non-toxic cleaning products.

15. The Atlantic Cup, with three stopovers along the East Coast of the United States, has been a Platinum Level Clean Regatta each year since 2013. They take sustainability to a whole new level as a carbon neutral event in addition to being ISO 20121 compliant. In 2018, they diverted 82% of their waste from the landfill, and have a large focus on educating thousands of local students at every stopover about sailing and ocean health issues.

Thank you to everyone in our Clean Regattas community for supporting this program over the years. If you’d like to join us, you can learn more about the program and register your event here.