Two years ago, members of the Thistle Class of one design sailboats started a pilot program, working with Sailors for the Sea Powered by Oceana, aimed at making as many Thistle Class regattas and events as environmentally sustainable as possible. What the sailors have accomplished since then has helped Sailors for the Sea this spring launch the new Clean Class initiative, which recognizes entire classes of boats whose members are committed to sustainability.
Clean Class is built on the successful Clean Regattas program, which lays out a framework of 20 steps that regatta organizers and sailors can take to make an event more environmentally conscious and sustainable. These steps range from eliminating single-use plastics like water bottles and providing water filling stations, to sourcing event foods locally, to working with local conservation and environmental groups. Regattas can choose which steps they want to take, then report their success to achieve certifications in varying levels.
The greater purpose is to educate sailors about how they can take actions small and large to support the health of their local waterways and world oceans, as well expand their impact by connecting with organizations in their communities that are working on these issues. Since the program’s inception in 2006, more than 3,400 events and 850,000 sailors in 53 countries have participated in Clean Regattas, according to Sailors for the Sea.
The new Clean Class initiative takes this framework and focuses it on one-design classes.
“Working directly with one-design classes creates consistent expectations for all participants and provides resources for organizers and class leadership when addressing sustainability challenges,” said Emily Conklin, who as Sailors for the Sea’s Program Manager oversees the Clean Regattas program and Clean Class initiative. “The commitment of the Thistle Class to this pilot and advancing environmental stewardship through their events has been exciting to see. Their dedication is a model for other passionate sailors looking to protect the environment they love. With hundreds of classes around the world, participation in the Clean Class initiative will have a significant positive impact for our oceans and waterways.”
During the first full year of the pilot in 2021, the Thistle Class—which has more than 50 active fleets in the U.S.—registered 21 new Clean Regattas, a 420% increase in Thistle events participating in the program. Last year, six more events registered, while many of the recurring regattas added more steps to achieve higher levels of sustainability certification.
“The Thistle Class has been a longtime advocate of sustainability. We wanted to take it to the next level by having sound common practices, and a process to share ideas and set class goals,” Mike Ingham, Thistle Class champion and Sailors for the Sea Skipper, said in a press release. “By working closely with Sailors for the Sea, we leveraged their expertise with an emphasis on their successful Clean Regattas program. Our goal is to reduce the environmental impact at as many Thistle events as possible. Because of this initiative, we see a deepening ‘clean’ culture throughout the Thistle Class, top down, from class leaders through event organizers, clubs, and sailors.”
The Clean Class initiative is open to any one design fleets, regardless of membership size or number of events. For Clean Class recognition, 25% of a class’s events need to achieve at least a bronze-level Clean Regatta certification.
For more information, contact sailorsforthesea.org.