Ocean Conservation is an Important Issue Throughout the Caribbean

Regattas commit to Sailors for the Sea Clean Regattas Program. Four-time program participant BVI Spring Regatta receives Gold Certification; Clean Regattas best practices motivating the creation of island-wide recycling and conservation efforts

 

Newport, Rhode Island- April 30, 2012 - Sailors for the Sea, the only ocean conservation nonprofit focused on the sailing and boating community, proudly acknowledges the growing interest in ocean conservation throughout the Caribbean and congratulates recent Clean Regattas certification recipients, especially the BVI Spring Regatta for its efforts as the first Caribbean-based event to achieve Gold level certification.

Clean Regattas certification provides independent, third-party verification that a yacht club, sailing program, or regatta is environmentally responsible, and is doing its utmost to protect the waters upon which people sail.

This year's Caribbean-based Clean Regattas participants and certification recipients are:

Beacons of Hope and Examples of Change
Now in its seventh season, the Clean Regattas certification program continues to draw support and participation among leading sailing events hosted throughout the Caribbean, while the program's best practices serve as catalyst to several broader recycling efforts under consideration throughout the region. 
 
According to Judy Petz, regatta director, BVI Spring Regatta, Natural resources throughout the Caribbean and the local environment are facing dramatic threats. It is our duty to protect and preserve land and water resources. After all this is our natural playground for sailing and it's our responsibility to keep it clean. The cooperation of many of our sponsors and community organizations really helped us achieve the Gold level. Participating in the Clean Regattas program was a natural next step to the myriad activities being organized, promoted, and enacted through the area designed to make living and visiting the BVIs enjoyable for generations to come. 
 
One of the highlights of this year's BVI Spring Regatta was the collaboration between the local non-profit GreenVI and the race organizers who worked to recycle bottles used at last year's regatta, which were turned into trophies for 2012 regatta winners. Like other Caribbean islands, the BVI has no official recycling program. However, GreenVI's glass studio has begun the process in the BVI by taking glass bottles used around the island to create pieces of art and landscaping material. The recycled trophies were just one of many efforts made by the BVI Spring Regatta to achieve Gold Certification. Other best practices included:

  • Distributing reusable water bottles to race participants and placing water stations throughout the venue
  • Forming The Green Rangers, a large and enthusiastic green team made up of local youth who kept the event site free of debris
  • Working with Green VI to recycle glass and aluminum
  • Placing oil spill kits in all motorized vessels
  • Employing electronic registration systems and TV screens to display race results
  • Using biodegradable cups at the bar
  • Raising $3,000 matched by Heineken as part of offsetting our carbon footprint. These funds will be used to help jump start a recycling program on the island
  • Ongoing notices to participants that emphasized environmentally friendly actions - reducing gray water, conducting maintenance in contained locations, avoidance of cleaning hulls in sensitive harbor areas, and using shore facilities to prevent blackwater discharge
  • Composting of food by vendors who provided the food waste to local pigs
  • Using non-toxic cleaning products and promoting their use to competitors

The 39th annual International Rolex Regatta hosted by St. Thomas Yacht Club also took significant steps to achieve its Clean Regattas certification - Silver Level. The St. Thomas Yacht Club faced a unique set of challenges when planning to run a Clean Regatta as the island of St. Thomas does not have recycling and the tap water is not drinkable. Regatta organizers at the St. Thomas Yacht Club focused on reduction of waste and reusing items to reduce the event's environmental impact. For the first time this year, a pump out boat is available to boaters in the USVI, an important step to protecting their waters year round. Race boats with heads on board were encouraged to use this service. The boat Bermuda High was the first boat to use the pump out station during the Rolex Regatta. Additional efforts included the St. Thomas Yacht Club recycling of all its cooking oil for use as bio-diesel, and use of biodegradable detergents, as well as:

  • A green team cleaning the beach each day
  • Trashcans placed all over the beach and club to limit party debris from blowing into the ocean
  • The use of aluminum foil versus plastic wrap reduced lunch waste when compared to previous years
  • Lunch bags made from recycled material were reused and lunches were distributed in reused cardboard boxes
  • Dinner was served on recycled paper plates rather than plastic
  • Organizers reduced waste created from cases of water by purchasing bottles in crates that were reusable and returned to the distributor versus purchasing cases of water wrapped in plastic with a cardboard bottom, which would have resulted in wasted materials entering the landfill

Over 200 boats participated in the 32nd St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, which stepped up its Clean Regattas commitment to achieve Silver certification after receiving Bronze for the past three years. Like other Caribbean islands, Dutch St. Maarten offers a unique set of obstacles for any organization trying to reduce its environmental footprint, including the lack of pumpout stations, recycling facilities and any sort of composting options. Over the years organizations of the St. Maarten Heineken regatta have devised a unique set of solutions to these problems. Instead of relying on municipal recycling, organizers significantly reduced the amount of waste sent to landfill by using biodegradable products, reusing bow numbers and signage from year to year, reducing plastic waste by eliminating unnecessary items such as drinking stirrers and straws, and using paperless electronic systems for registration and results. Despite the lack of municipal recycling, organizers worked with private entrepreneurs to pilot recycling of the glass Heineken bottles that are ubiquitous at this event. Additionally, organizers work closely with local Marine Protected Areas, ensuring that boaters are educated and aware so these areas stay pristine for years to come.

"All in all, it's inspiring to see the efforts undertaken by the organizers of these three events," said Annie Brett, program lead, Sailors for the Sea. "Sometimes a little creative thinking leads to solutions that protect our oceans. In the Caribbean where the waters are crystal clear and the pristine beaches are the main draw, it's obvious that those efforts are well worthwhile, be it aesthetically, socially, or economically. We would also like to extend a special thank you to several organizations that made our attendance at the events possible - St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, USVI Department of Tourism, Cape Air, and the BVI Tourist Board."

Clean Regattas participants vow to fulfill, and encourage others to fulfill, the goals and requirements of the program. The program's growth mirrors the interest among boaters to protect local waters for the use and enjoyment by all.

Brett notes "Average annual growth in Clean Regattas program participation is close to 175%, which includes over 40 repeat events among the more than 150 events expected to receive certification in 2012. By making the Clean Regattas Pledge, these events commit to leading by example in their efforts to protect ocean health and improve their environmental practices."

To participate in the Clean Regattas program, regatta organizers commit to carrying out at least one Best Practice. With three levels of certification, participants select their level of engagement, and work to fulfill the related certification requirements (five for Bronze, 10 for Silver, 15 for Gold), relating to:

  • trash and recycling collection and disposal
  • discharge
  • oil spill prevention
  • green cleaning products and bottom paint usage
  • bottom cleaning and boat maintenance
  • global warming and carbon offsets
  • biofuel conversion
  • use of recycled materials in regatta awards

About Sailors for the Sea 
Founded in 2004, Sailors for the Sea is a nonprofit organization that educates and empowers the boating community to protect and restore our oceans and local waters. For more information or to participate in any of the Sailors for the Sea programs, or to become a member and support the organization, visit www.sailorsforthesea.org.