September 2023 OES Beacon

Using Sports to Advocate for Environmental Sustainability

Stan Chamberlain, IEEE Life Member, First OES President

Figure 1. High Performance, Hydrofoil Race Boat (

Is it possible to use sports to advocate for environmental sustainability? The Ocean Race says you not only can but they are doing it big time.

The Ocean Race is a high performance, hydrofoil-based, sailboat race around the world (Figure 1), with teams representing France, Germany, Switzerland, European Union and the United States.  Since 1973, The Ocean Race has provided the ultimate test of a team and a human adventure like no other.

The 14th edition of The Ocean Race started from Alicante, Spain on January 12, 2023, and finished in Genova, Italy on June 29, 2023. The race visited nine cities around the globe during the six-month period: Alicante, Spain; Cabo Verde; Cape Town, South Africa; Itajai, Brazil; Newport, Rhode Island, (RI), USA; Aarhus, Denmark; Kiel Fly-by, Germany; The Hague, the Netherlands; and Genova, Italy. The longest leg was from Cape Town to Itajai, a distance of 12,750 nautical miles with no stopping between (Figure 2).

Figure 2. The Around-The-World Race Course (

The leg of most interest to me was leg 4, from Itajai, Brazil to Newport, RI, USA, and leg 5, from Newport to Aarhus, Denmark, since my home is in RI. I had the opportunity to see (and photograph as an IEEE OES official photographer) the first boat to reach Newport, to observe the boats racing while in Newport, and to watch their start of leg 5 heading for Aarhus, Denmark. It was exciting to see that the boat which won leg 4 ending in Newport was the boat from the United States (11th Hour Racing) and that its captain, Charlie Enright, is from the town next to mine.

So how is The Ocean Race advocating for Environmental Sustainability?

Figure 3. The Ocean Messages Emblazoned on Sail and Boat

In support of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030, The Ocean Race believes they have a platform from which they can educate, inspire and accelerate action for the ocean at this critical time in history. They believe the ocean environment is in serious decline, that this is “the ocean hour,” that it is, in fact, in “the 11th hour” as it moves most rapidly toward its potential midnight of destruction.  They are using their global platform to inspire all those that they can reach to take action to help the ocean, explaining that this is the most important race they are in, and emphasizing that it is a Race We Must Win. Note the messages emblazoned on the racing boats themselves (Figure 3).

As they seek to reach the sailing community, wider sports industry, businesses, host cities, governments, children, fans and many more, they have embraced a program of Racing with Purpose. In conjunction with the 11th Hour Racing organization, Premier Partner of The Ocean Race and Founding Partner of Racing with Purpose, this includes a number of initiatives, including a Race Team Commitment, One Blue Voice, Ocean Summits, and Science – Capturing Ocean Data.

Race Team Commitment

Figure 4. Comprehensive Data Collection Process (

Before the start of the round-the-world race, teams signed up to a series of individual and team-wide actions that support a healthy ocean. The skippers and managers, on behalf of each of the racing teams, signed a Race Team Sustainability Charter. This charter pledges team actions across four key themes: (1) Advocacy for the ocean, (2) Science support with onboard scientific equipment, (3) Support for the Race’s Learning Programs that teach young people about the threats to the seas and empower them to take action, and (4) Onboard renewable energy operations.

One Blue Voice

The Ocean Race sponsors believe a healthy ocean starts with recognizing ocean rights – valuing our marine world not just for the services that it provides us, but because the ocean has a right to thrive. From climate change and pollution to industrial overfishing, these rights are being ignored. To make them heard, The Ocean Race has established a global petition for a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights. This petition, with a mechanism for individuals and organizations to sign, and which was open for signatures before, during and after The Ocean Race (, will be presented to the UN General Assembly members in September 2023. This is in support of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), which is also actively supported by OES, as exemplified, among others, by the OES presentation on July 12, 2023, at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum (UNHLPF) on “Ocean Sustainability and the Impact of Pollution.”

Figure 5. Ocean Measurements During The Race (

Ocean Summits

The Ocean Race Summits are a series of summits seeking to drive new and improved policies around the major issues affecting the ocean: lack of governance, lack of protection, and climate change. The series examines whether giving the ocean rights could be a key to ensuring its future. The Summits use the Race’s global platform to help accelerate action for our marine world. One of the ways they are doing this is by reaching the decision-makers who can make this happen. The Summits support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG14) to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.

Starting as a stand-alone event during the 2014-15 edition of the Race, at the stopover in Newport, Rhode Island, USA, the Summits have become one of the most important elements of the Racing with Purpose sustainability program. During this year’s edition, the Summits were held in each of the stopover cities, except Cape Town and The Hague. They included a physical presence from local government, industry and civic participants and virtual participation from attendees from around the globe. The Carbo Verde Summit was opened with a powerful message from United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. In his remarks, he noted that in the face of climate change and plastic pollution, humanity has its own race to win — the race to protect our ocean for the future.

Figure 6. Official Photographer Badge

The Summits feature innovative Action Labs, in which the participants break into groups to look at different issues relating to ocean health, building on best practice from across the world to create clear pathways and actions. The Summit at the final city focused on the outcomes of the “Genova Process,” a pathway bringing together international experts in international law, diplomacy, ocean science and sport to drive the ambitious goal of giving the ocean a voice. The Genova Process included a series of Innovation Workshops towards the drafting of principles on Ocean Rights. Along with the One Blue Voice petition, the principles will be delivered to the UN Assembly in New York in September 2023.

Science – Capturing Ocean Data

An important element of The Ocean Race Science Program is using their unique race – which goes through some of the most remote parts of the planet that are rarely accessible for scientific research – to gather valuable information about the health of the ocean. With guidance from leading oceanic science organizations, they collected key ocean measurements to help provide a more accurate view of what is happening to the ocean and the important role it plays in maintaining a healthy planet. They believe this is the most comprehensive science program of any sporting event in the world. Their goal is to take 4.3 million measurements during the 32,000 nautical mile long race and more than 400 samples of marine litter. Data was transmitted to science organizations via satellite in real time, contributing to the Ocean Decade Odyssey project, an endorsed project of the UN Decade of Ocean Science (2021-2030). Figure 4 provides an overview of the comprehensive data collection program and Figure 5 identifies the ocean parameters that were collected during the race.

Figure 7. Stan With Winning Skipper, Charlie Enright

The Ocean Race – Over The Water

These are the some of the activities associated with “the Race We Must Win.” What of the 32,000 nautical mile, nearly 6-month race around the world? The Race started in Alicante, Spain on January 12, 2023 and ended in Genova, Italy on June 29, 2023 when the last of the boats to arrive in Genova was declared the winner (last, not first to arrive, as explained in Leg 7 below).

The Ocean Race, sometimes considered “the ultimate test of a team in sport,” had situations that give some credence to the characterization:

  • Leg 3: Shortly after the start of leg 3, from Cape Town, South Africa, one of the boats (GUYOT environment – Team Europe) experienced delamination in a portion of its hull and had to withdraw from leg 3.
  • Leg 4: One boat (Team Holcim – PRB) was 200 miles off the coast of Brazil when it lost the top half of its only mast. They jury-rigged a jib and were able to slowly return to Itajai, Brazil, ship the boat to Newport, get a new mast from Europe, and be ready for the start of the next leg. Another boat (GUYOT environment – Team Europe) on that same leg broke its port shroud supporting the mast. Under reduced sails they slowly sailed the boat to Canada. From there they shipped it to Denmark where they obtained a new mast in time for the start of leg 6.
  • Leg 5: One boat (Team Holcim – PRB) broke a world distance record by sailing 640.9 nm in 24 hours. But less than 24 hours later one of the other boats (Team Malizia) set a new world record by sailing 641.13 nm in 24 hours. These averaged speeds of 27 knots while sailing in an average wind speed less than 27 knots. Also on that leg, a third boat (11th Hour Racing) was abruptly stopped dead in the water when they rammed into a large marine mammal, presumably a whale. One crew member sustained a concussion from the abrupt stop, but to a degree deemed by a shore doctor insufficient to abandon the leg.
  • Leg 7: Shortly after the start of this the last leg, the boat then in the overall Race lead and expected to win the Race, 11th Hour Racing, was unintentionally rammed by one of the other boats (GUYOT environment – Team Europe), causing 11th Hour Racing to abandon that leg. This resulted in the loss of its lead with no more legs remaining to regain the lead. Fortunately for them, 11th Hour Racing, not being at fault in the collision, was granted points by the international race jurors, sufficient to recapture the lead and be crowned the overall winner of The Ocean Race.
Figure 8. The Overall Winner of The Ocean Race, 11th Hour Racing
Figure 9. The Start of Leg 5 in Newport, RI, USA

I had the opportunity of covering the race on behalf of our OES Beacon newsletter, and was granted Photographer credentials allowing me onto one of the Official Photo Boats (Figure 6).

In addition to the ocean sustainability aspects, of most interest to me was the performance of the sole United States boat, 11th Hour Racing, with its captain from the town next to mine.  By winning leg 4, coming in to Newport, he arrived as a local hero and I was able to meet him (Figure 7).

11th Hour Racing was able to go on to also win Legs 5 and 6. And after being rammed by a competitor boat and thereby knocked out of Leg 7, but being granted points by the international jurors, 11th Hour Racing was declared The Ocean Race overall winner (Figure 8).

Figure 10. Under the Bridge during the Start of Leg 5 in Newport.
Figure 11. Heading out to Sea from Newport on Leg 5.