New Zealand’s biggest multi-day keelboat sailing event, Bay of Islands Sailing Week, has been awarded gold level clean regattas certification for their “extraordinary waste management efforts” during the last regatta in January 2020.
Ocean conservation group Sailors for the Sea operates the clean regattas programme, which they claim is ‘the world’s leading sustainability certification for on-water events".
Bay of Islands Sailing Week chair Manuela Gmuer-Hornell says the award is a clear indicator of their commitment to operating in an environmentally responsible way.
“We’re all sailors, organisers and participants, and we all love the ocean, so it’s important we do our bit to protect it," she said. "The beauty of the local area is a big draw card for us, too, so we want to preserve it for the future.”
The gold level certification came as a surprise to the event’s organisers, who say they were hoping to achieve silver level in their first year in the programme.
Sailors for the Sea programme manager Paige Myatt delivered the certificate with the message: “On behalf of all of us here at Sailors for the Sea, we'd like to award Bay of Islands Sailing Week with gold level clean regatta certification. We felt your extraordinary waste management efforts deserved further recognition, so we increased your certification level from silver to gold.”
Regatta administrator Cath Beaumont, who coordinated the event’s many and varied efforts to be more environmentally friendly, said they set out with achievable goals that they could build on in the future.
“The most important thing is to start somewhere because even doing one thing is better than doing nothing,” she said
The regatta’s sustainability initiatives included waste minimisation, carbon reduction, buying local, educating participants and engaging with sustainability partners.
“We really looked at every aspect of what we do to see if we can be more sustainable,” Gmuer-Hornell said. “One of the most simple changes was switching to reusable bottles with free water refilling stations.
"If you consider there are probably 1000 sailors and volunteers drinking at least a couple of bottles of water a day, over three days, that saved 6000 single use plastic bottles alone.”
Photos: Lissa Photography
Organisers worked with local community group Russell Recyclers to help with waste minimisation, composting and recycling wherever possible, which resulted in a 75 percent reduction in waste going to landfill.
The organising committee also used video conferencing for committee meetings so they didn’t have to use cars to travel, created an app to communicate important documents digitally instead of printing, and enforced a no-discharge rule for competitors to eliminate pollution from boats entering the water.
The event has also partnered with Live Ocean, a marine conservation charity established by Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, and Sea Cleaners, a charity that removes tonnes of rubbish from our shorelines.
The next Bay of Islands Sailing Week is scheduled to take place from January 26-29, 2021. Organisers say they will be looking for ways to upgrade to platinum level next year - the highest possible sustainability certification under the clean regattas programme.