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Y.CO Clearwater: 'Through education and inspiration the industry can change'

2017-03-27By Sophia Wilson

Aiming to reduce the environmental impact of yacht operations and to protect the oceans for future generations, Y.CO’s new Clearwater initiative is set to make waves in the industry. Y.CO’s co-founder Charlie Birkett and business development manager Hatty Campbel_l explain their plan for change_

“Our industry needs to wake up and be more responsible,” says Charlie Birkett. “There are some amazing crews and owners out there who are already doing incredible things but we need more to happen.” This is the ethos behind Y.CO’s new project, Clearwater, which aims to support the fleet and company as a whole to achieve a more sustainable ecological future.

Y.CO's Clearwater initiative aims to protect the world's oceans for future generations

The primary focus of the new project is environmental, with the first aim being to reduce the use of plastic across the community. “It’s scary when there are some reports that suggest that there as many plastic bottles in the sea as there are fish. That is just ridiculous,” adds Charlie.

The project has started with immediate effect in the Y.CO offices, which are now plastic free, thanks to a partnership with S'well water bottles. “It has only taken us three weeks to go plastic free but before that we had 10 years of loads of plastic bottles arriving every week and ending up in the bin,” says Charlie. “It is only on a small scale but it is such a quick turnaround, imagine what the whole industry could do if we really focused on it. There is no reason why our entire fleet shouldn’t be running plastic bottle free.”

Clearwater has also joined forces with A Plastic Ocean – a feature-length documentary highlighting the environmental dangers of our disposable lifestyle – organising screenings for crew and management staff. “It is a good starting point because it is accessible,” says Hatty Campbell. “It’s upsetting; you are seeing what we are doing to the world that our children are going to grow up in. You can’t help but be affected by it and feel passionate about it afterwards.”

Y.CO has now gone plastic bottle free in all of its offices

At the heart of the Clearwater project are the crew of the more than 100 yachts that Y.CO manage. “The crew are the reason we created Clearwater in the first place,” says Charlie. “They are the stakeholders, decision makers and purchasers, they are in charge of everything. The idea is that by educating the crew they will help educate other parts of the industry.”

As part of Clearwater a “plastic hero” will be nominated on each yacht to help motivate the rest of the crew to be more environmentally aware. The Clearwater project will also encourage the crew to get involved in charity projects while on board. Yachts that go above and beyond environmental expectations will also be acknowledged through an official accreditation.

“The crew are intelligent people, so the idea is to inspire them rather than to preach to them,” explains Charlie. “We want them to think about the destinations they are visiting. For example, when they go to Antigua rather than hitting the bars every night perhaps there is a local school they could go and help at or a beach clean they could get involved with.”

At centre of the Clearwater Project are the crew of the yachts that Y.CO manage

One yacht that is leading the way in the industry is 73 metre Dragonfly, under the expert guidance of Captain Mike Gregory. The yacht has been plastic free for the past four years and in 2015 stepped in to offer aid in Vanuatu after the Pacific nation was devastated by Cyclone Pam. Dragonfly helped to deliver more than 62,000 litres of water, treated more than 250 casualties, arranged and facilitated three medevacs and delivered six tonnes of medical and food aid. As well as what was achieved on the ground it is hoped that Dragonfly’s mission will help inspire other superyachts to get involved in the future. A video that was created ofDragonfly’s mission in Vanuatu has been watched nearly 140,000 times.

“The video is as important as the work we did in the country,” Mike says. “It was our only connection, to show that we can all make a difference. I think as an industry we are a little bit behind and we could definitely do more. It comes down to education and providing a support network to achieve these goals.”

“A lot of yachts don’t know how to help,” adds Hatty. “They need someone like Mike to stand in and tell them how they did it and how they prepared the yacht in order to do so.”

In terms of influence, Y.CO hopes that the Clearwater project can have a ripple effect across the superyacht community and perhaps even further afield. “A lot of our clients are big decision makers,” concludes Hatty. “This could have a real impact on a much more global scale. We have got an audience and I think we should do something good with it.”

Dragonfly's crew helped to treat 250 casualties after Cyclone Pam

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