As a city that has many residents active on the water, it seems fitting that Sailors for the Sea calls Newport its headquarters. Their mission is simple: “to educate and empower the boating community to protect our oceans.”
Sailors for the Sea was founded by David Rockefeller, Jr. in 2004 due to the alarming ocean health issues that he discovered, including marine debris, overfishing, habitat alteration and degradation, non-point source pollution, invasive species and inconsistent ocean management policies. Located in the Seamen’s Church in downtown Newport, the organization refers to themselves as “the new voice for ocean conservation.”
One of the programs that Sailors for the Sea offers is called Clean Regattas, which has been growing quickly. Yacht clubs are encouraged to make their programs and events “clean” by engaging in a list of best practices that will assist them in achieving environmental standards. Depending on the number of tasks completed, events are certified at the Bronze (5 tasks), Silver (10 tasks), and Gold level (15 tasks).
Last year more than 35,000 people participated in the Clean Regattas program and Sailors for the Sea ensured that tens of thousands of one time use plastic bottles were removed from the waste stream, Pingaro said.
“We will have Clean Regattas from the Caribbean to California and points in-between this year,” he said.
The list of best practices include:
Water Bottle Reduction - Reduce single-use, disposable water bottles at the event site by providing Water Stations and Reusable Bottles to participants (participants can also be expected to provide their own reusable bottles). Sailors for the Sea have several proven strategies for carrying this out.
Green Team - Assemble a team to work on shore and sea cleanup, oversee recycling operations and communicate the goals and agenda of the program throughout the event.
Trash Free Regatta - Keep shores and waters clear of debris. Overboard discharge of trash and littering at shore facilities (e.g., rigging tape, cigarette butts, bottles and cans) should be prevented completely.
No Discharge - Prevent discharge of untreated sewage or blackwater in harbor areas and on race courses throughout the event.
Recycling - Provide recycling services at shore facilities for participants to deposit separated recyclable materials. The more that can be separated and hauled away the better.
Non-Toxic Cleaning Products - Include a list of "green" cleaning products in skipper's packet and use only non-toxic cleaning products during the event. Be a role model by changing over all organization or club cleaning products to non-toxics.
Gray Water Reduction - in order to reduce runoff of phosphates and nitrates into waters during the event, ask all race participants to use water only when washing down their boats during the course of the regatta. If this is not possible, ask that they use only non-toxic cleaning products, which can alleviate the pressure on marine life.
Oil Spill Prevention - Require that motorized vessels shall carry and use at least one bilge sponge and one fueling spill pad.
Biodegradable Products - single use plastic is one of the biggest culprits to the detriment of marine health, and the health of marine species. Make use of corn-based, biodegradable products for all event activities, including cups, napkins, plates, forks, knives. In the unlikely event that these make their way into the ocean, they will eventually break down.
Bottom Paint - Repaint tenders or support boats with non-toxic bottom paint, such as copper-free ePaint or a similar product. Even making this change on a single boat is a step in the right direction. You can also request that participants make the effort to change their own bottom paint before entering the regatta.
Bottom Cleaning - Prevent bottom cleaning in harbor and sensitive areas for the duration of the event. Request that participants scrub their hulls prior to arriving at the event in order to alleviate the stress on your local waters.
Maintenance - Conduct maintenance activities, such as sanding and fairing, in approved areas using mitigation measures, such as tarps and dustless sanders, to contain pollutants.
Carbon Offsets - Reduce the "carbon wake" of the event Commit to reduce carbon footprint by either (1) reducing energy use or (2) purchasing offsets for all operations, or a combination thereof. Take this further by giving regatta participants the option to purchase carbon offsets.
Regatta Awards - Present race awards and trophies that contain recycled materials, as available. Alternatively, present awards that have a practical use, such as foul weather gear or boat gear.
Stormwater Pollution Prevention - Implement a stormwater management system to reduce runoff from shore facilities.
Alternative Fuels - fuel at least one diesel-fueled motorized vessel (e.g., committee boat, launch or support boat) with B20 or higher biodiesel or vegetable oil, or convert chase boat from 2-stroke to 4-stroke engine.
Compost - ensure that all organic and biodegradable waste remain out of the waste stream by establishing an on-site or off-site compost system.
The Clean Regattas program is just one of the many programs that Sailors for the Sea offers. The newest initiative, Certified Sea Friendly, is “a voluntary certification program to transform the marine manufacturing industry and make the construction, maintenance and operation of vessels more environmentally friendly.” Pingaro best describes it as a LEED-style certification program for recreational vessels.
“We are in the early development stage,” Pingaro said. “We have spoken with numerous designers, builders and others around the country and have received strong support for the concept. Since we are in the early stages of development, the Certified Sea Friendly program will not be ready for roll out this year.”