MEDIA ALERT: Green Team Features ‘E-Stewards’ in Boost to Sustainability Efforts

June 7, 2022

By Sean McNeill

Sailboat in Bermuda Waters

Up to 50 sailors in the fleet will be tasked with monitoring their boat’s waste and innovating best sustainability practices

Leif Heimbold, sailing on Momentum, is one of a cadre of E-stewards competing in this year's Bermuda Race.

NEWPORT, RI (June 7, 2022)—The Bermuda Race Organizing Committee has made sustainability a focal point of the biennial race. The past three editions of the 635-nautical mile race (2014, ’16 and ’18) have been recognized by Sailors for the Sea as “clean” regattas, culminating with a Gold classification for the 2018 race for its effort to minimize the impact on the environment.

This year race organizers hope to achieve Platinum-level status—the highest level—and have laid out objectives to eliminate single-use plastic, maximize recycling and reuse, encourage thoughtful provisioning, and promote the use of environmentally friendly boat and dish-cleaning solvents that lack harsh chemicals, among a long list of suggestions. (They also have brought aboard an official sustainability sponsor, Sea Bags, which is conducting a sail recycling drive next week and leading other initiatives (See details).) Competitors are also encouraged to fuel their boats with biodiesel or alternative fuels, to limit grey water discharge and to have designated water bottles for each crew member to eliminate single-use plastic bottles.

To oversee this effort, organizers asked skippers this year to consider adding an Environmental Steward to their crew rosters, and the position has generated great interest. Approximately 50 ‘E-stewards’ will be spread throughout the fleet, collectively forming the Green Team, which will help oversee the race’s sustainability goals while racing to Bermuda.

Ella Orem Wassail E-steward
Ella Orem is the E-steward aboard Wassail.

“An E-steward is a member of the racing crew interested in developing and promoting expertise around environmental sustainability and best practices onboard,” said Chan Reis, head of the Newport Bermuda Race Green Team. “All racing crews have specialists in their areas of the boat, such as trimming or the bow. If we want to advance sustainability goals, it seems natural to round out a crew with someone whose expertise is in this area.”

The E-stewards are the focal point of the race’s ethos to “leave no trace” while at sea, which is a component of the Notice of Race for the 52nd Bermuda Race. Besides monitoring their boat’s waste, E-stewards are also being asked to consider doing environmentally related data collection while at sea. They’ve been asked to take logs of plastic gyres, derelict fishing debris, or balloons, either manually in a notebook or using new Smart phone apps like the NOAA Marine Debris Tracker.

“The E-steward goes beyond the event—beyond the sustainability initiatives that are happening onshore—in giving that responsibility and ownership to every team competing in the race,” said Shelley Brown, the Executive Director of Sailors for the Sea, Powered by Oceana. “It’s been really exciting to watch this start and take off.”

Dave Johnson (Middletown, R.I.), the E-steward aboard Andrew Kallfelz’s Arcona 460 Safir, drafted optional guidance that is posted on the Bermuda Race website’s sustainability page under the heading “Green Team Ideas.” The site is an ongoing platform for the sailing community to post tips, plans or photos.

Johnson plans to minimize black and gray water discharge and has urged his crewmates to screen their personal gear before the race, to remove things such as plastic clips, straps, wrappers or outer packaging.

“The less material we have aboard to handle, separate, dispose of or manage, the less likely it is to end up in a place where it shouldn’t be,” he said.

The E-steward for Nicholas Orem’s Naiad 440 Wassail will be his 16-year-old granddaughter, Ella, who jumped at the opportunity when it was presented to her. “I think it won’t be too hard having a chat with everyone on board. Being the youngest and also the only girl on the boat, I feel like I can say, ‘Guys, listen up! This is what we’re doing!’” said Ella Orem with a smile.

“I am very interested in environmental science. In living, I try to keep my impact fairly low. A lot of the things you can do on the boat are similar to things you can do every day,” said Ella. “I have a lot of little ideas. Mostly, just making sure we are not using plastic wraps. There is a nice substitute like ‘Bee's wax’ wraps. Using reusable Tupperware, reef-safe sunscreen, when we’re cleaning the boat, we can use non-toxic options like baking soda and water. That’s a good substitute.”

If you’re interested in the joining the Green Team, write to [email protected]. For more information, visit the Newport Bermuda Race’s Sustainability page or read more about the Green Team’s approach to sustainability.

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