Wanted: Onboard Environmentalists

December 12, 2021

By Chan Reis

Most of us know what a watch captain, navigator, cook and tactician does on the Newport Bermuda Race, but what about an environmentalist?  

We are excited to announce that the SailGate crew management tool now allows skippers to name an “environmentalist” on their crew roster. This small software change in the entry management system is both symbolic and substantive.   

Gus Carlson's Aurora team (this is his previous Aurora shown starting the 2010 Race) is one of the first to appoint an environmentalist in the crew for 2022 to help minimize the footprint of a crew of 14. Daniel Forster/PPL photo

Ten years ago, the Newport Bermuda Race Organizing Committee (BROC) began climbing the sustainability ladder with its resource partner Sailors for the Sea, a Rhode Island-based  organization dedicated to clean regatta and green boating best practices. With each “Thrash to the Onion Patch” comes new opportunities for greater environmental awareness and improved best practices around protecting our oceans.  

One of those improvements - adding an environmental officer among the crew -  is an idea borne out of necessity, like the evolving disciplines of a navigator, watch captain, cook, tactician or doctor on offshore boats. 

The position has no mandatory race requirements, but is gaining popularity among a growing community of sailors.


Environmentalist is an assignable function in the entry system for the first time in 2022.

“All crews can certainly take some steps to reduce their footprint,” says Tucker Sylvia - the environmentalist aboard Aurora, a well-known Reichel/Pugh 66 owned and skippered by Gus Carlson. 

Aurora will sail the 2022 Newport Bermuda Race with a crew of 14 packing light and carrying reusable food and drink supplies to keep trash onboard to a minimum.  

Sylvia, 30, a new member of the Aurora crew lives in Jamestown, Rhode Island, and has an ocean science background. He says eliminating single-use food and beverage containers is essential to reducing waste, and has the strong support of owner/skipper Gus Carlson and crew boss Rich Moody. 

He’s also calling attention to the potential damage wrought by boat maintenance materials.  

“The biggest thing that could be improved is maintenance materials: e-tape, zip-ties, splicing leftovers, etc. Keeping those small pieces of waste out of the water is important. Realize that anything you toss will inevitably end-up somewhere,” Sylvia says. 

“It's a good program,” he says, referring to the Sailors for the Sea Clean Regatta/ Green Boating program.

Protecting the ocean playground resonates with Paul Jennings, a veteran of several Newport Bermuda Races. Jennings is entering his Cal 40 Towhee for the first time sailing out of Branford, Conn. His offshore experience as well as sailing in Long Island Sound, has informed his view that putting an “environmentalist” on the crew roster is one of those easy decisions that could have an incremental impact. 

Left to right, Oliver, Elliot and Paul Jennings aboard their Cal 40 Towhee. Elliot has taken on the Environmentalist role for 2022.

“Great idea, great opportunity to get the word out. I think it’s on people’s minds, but I don’t know if it’s high enough on the priority list.  Balloons, plastic bags, plastic water bottles, they’re all over the place” Jennings says. He has nominated his son Elliot to be Towhee’s onboard environmental officer.  

“People are starting to plan what their menus are going to look like and naming an environmentalist is one way to kick-off that planning and raise awareness,” Elliot says. 

The younger Jennings learned sustainability lessons as a kid at a high-adventure scout camp in New Mexico and studied environmental science in college.  For the Bermuda Race, he will focus on pre-planning in areas that include Nalgene water bottles for the crew, reusable cutlery and dishes, ocean safe sunscreen.  

Working with the cook to prepare casseroles to mitigate the use of single-use freeze-dried food plastics is on his To Do list. He’s examining oft-overlooked food prep areas that require extra planning like opening-up pre-packaged snacks and recycling paperboard and plastic wrappings ahead of time. 

Elliot also hopes to work on other critical topics like engine/bilge maintenance, sewage discharge, fueling, and bottom paints. 

Concerns over plastic and ocean acidification has a growing community of sailors taking small, but impactful steps to develop and expand the collective knowledge of clean regatta and green boating best practices. Dedicating a crew position to environmental sustainability is an idea that's gaining momentum and could represent a new milestone for its collective effort. 

See our Sustainability page to read more or contact us to get involved at [email protected].

—Chan Reis, Green Team leader, Bermuda Race Organizing Committee

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