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The 9 winners of the Ocean Awards 2017

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Seafarers’ Award: Ben Ainslie Racing (Land Rover BAR)

Photographed by Harry Cory Wright

The Seafarers' Award recognises the individual or group from the sea-faring community that has done the most this year to advance marine conservation. Nominees for the Seafarers' Award must have undertaken efforts to advance marine conservation, be it through awareness-raising, fundraising, direct conservation activities, or any other means.

Of course, those who sail have a vested interest in maintaining the health of the world’s oceans. Even so it’s a credit to the Land Rover BAR sailing team that it has a sustainability strategy, driven by Dr Susie Tomson, who has sailed since childhood and has a PhD in integrated coastal management.

“At Land Rover BAR we are striving to achieve major sustainability objectives, with a light environmental footprint, zero waste and minimal energy consumption,” she says. “We also have significant opportunities for creating positive change through our community engagement and building an innovative technical and design capacity and skills base. The America’s Cup attracts more media and public attention than any other sailing contest, and we can use this spotlight to lead change.

“At each America’s Cup World Series [most recently in Bermuda, Oman, Chicago and Portsmouth] we run an outreach event mainly aimed at engaging young people,” she continues. “We create practical events like beach clean-ups, upcycling waste, messaging around ocean plastics and gifting refillable plastic bottles.” We need, she adds, to do all we can to “eliminate plastics and pollutants from entering the water”.

Among other initiatives she and the team have set up are beach clean-ups near the team’s Portsmouth base, when team members took to the waters to remove rubbish – filling a large wheelie bin with plastic in just half an hour. The results were shared across all Land Rover BAR’s media and social media channels, to encourage others to take action in protecting their own local environments. “You’d be hard pressed to find a sailor who didn’t care about the issue of plastics and waste that are reaching the oceans,” Tomson says.

In collaboration with Blue Marine Foundation, Land Rover BAR also established the Solent Oyster Restoration Project to restore the local oyster population, which had collapsed in 2013 owing to changing environmental conditions, invasive predators and overfishing.

But perhaps most innovatively, in November 2015 the team developed a virtual chase boat, enabling data to be shared in real time and removing the need for an actual chase vessel, so saving about 10,000 litres of diesel each year. Land Rover BAR has also built two support boats with a high proportion of sustainable materials such as bio-resin, recycled PET core material and a flax-fibre deck, all of which resulted in a 20 per cent reduction in the boats’ embodied carbon.

All of this has contributed to the team winning the Beyond Sport, Sport for Environment award, making it the first sailing team, and possibly even the first British sports team, to win such approval.

Highly Commended: Fishing for Litter, KIMO International

Since the project was launched in 2000 by KIMO International (the Danish-based association of more than 70 local governments and municipalities across northern Europe), boats participating in the Fishing for Litter scheme have collected more than 4,500 tonnes of rubbish from the sea.

In the words of Tom Piper, the project’s UK co-ordinator, “Fishing for Litter is a very simple idea. Trawlers are given hard-wearing bags. They take them off sailing, fish as they would and take any litter they find in their nets, put it in these bags and bring it ashore. They just leave it on the quayside, and harbour staff come and put it in a locked skip and then it’s disposed of responsibly.”

It benefits the fishers too, reducing the risk of contaminated catches and damaged nets. As one Brixham fisherman puts it: “It’s brilliant, a win-win. It makes life easier for us.”

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