Sir Ben Ainslie

Week 212 (4 - 10 November) 

At this week’s International Federation (IF) Forum, four-time Olympic sailing champion and America’s Cup winner Sir Ben Ainslie gave the keynote address, sharing his plans for a sustainable sailing team that could shape the future of the America’s Cup.

Ainslie is the most successful sailor in Olympic history, winning five medals between 1996 and 2012, including four golds. In 2013, Ainslie joined Team Oracle USA for the 34th America’s Cup, leading the team’s comeback from eight points down to win the deciding race in San Francisco.

Now spearheading a campaign to bring the world’s oldest sporting competition to Britain, sustainability is at the heart of Ainslie’s ambition. The Land Rover BAR team, which hopes to compete for the 36th edition in 2021, has taken a number of initiatives to ensure they are not compromising on their primary goal of sustainable competition.

“We have installed the UK’s first seabin, which has the capability to collect 83,000 plastic shopping bags or 20,000 plastic bottles per year,” Ainslie said at the Forum in Lausanne, Switzerland. “We have also supported the Oyster Restoration Project and are continually investing in new ways of recycling carbon and lowering emissions.

“Sustainability is at the core because it’s the right thing to do. Sport has an opportunity to set the example and this is what we’re committed to.”

As part of the team’s recruitment process, a pledge to compete within an eco-friendly framework was a core component. Each member of the crew accepted that it is their responsibility to help restore the world’s natural waters.

“Everyone who joined the team knew this was a key part of our mantra, and this means that everyone is on the same page from the very start,” Ainslie continued. “We have all seen the damage that’s been done to our oceans and cities and that puts our responsibility into perspective.”

“The whole team has also committed to meat free Mondays, which was certainly a culture shock for some! All in all, we have 10-12 key initiatives which are making a big difference.”

There is a widening acceptance that more can be done through sport, both by athletes using their platform to promote sustainable initiatives but also by teams, hosts and IFs in major competitions. In 2016 the America’s Cup launched its own Sustainability Charter, ensuring each team’s commitment to water conservation, recycling and protecting marine habitats.

“The America’s Cup is trying to set the example with this Sustainability Charter - this is now a key part of the competition parameters,” Ainslie said. “I’m extremely proud of how our team have embraced it and I believe that sport – everyone attending this forum – can lead the change.”

For his forward thinking and proactive attitude, Ben Ainslie is JTA Communicator of the Week.

Photo: Flickr