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Green Regattas Go Greener

Sailing clean and "green" has moved beyond a one-year wonder to become a way of life at many Caribbean regattas. In fact, other marine events have started to add "going green" to their list of activities. The beneficiary, of course, is the ocean, the key ingredient to all nautical activities.

One of the first to take on a "green" initiative was the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival. "In 2007," said regatta director, Judy Petz, "the committee looked at the amount of glass bottles we accumulated in the regatta village. So in 2008, we started by recycling over 15,000 bottles with the help of a new local facility that had started a recycling center. Nanny Cay (Nanny Cay Marina and Resort) was also inspired and chose to keep the recycling bins on property to be used for all sailors and guests."

In 2009, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival and Antigua Sailing Week became three of over 40 events worldwide to partake in the Clean Regattas program. Clean Regattas is a voluntary certification system that Sailors for the Sea (SFS), a Newport, RI-based nonprofit organization dedicated to marine conservation, designed in order to help regattas, yacht clubs and sailing programs reduce the impact on the environment and take steps to protect and restore the oceans.

"No matter how much one cares about protecting the health and integrity of the ocean," said Chris Mancini, SFS program director, "the fact of the matter is that bringing together a large group of individuals to sail together in a single body of water will exert an immense strain on that resource, and require greater attention and effort to prevent or repair that strain."

Rik von den Hoff, regatta assistant at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, said that last year, "Several sponsors provided us with environmentally-friendly materials. For example, Heineken, our main sponsor, decided not to use drinking straws. Sol (The Sol Group) supplied us with rolls of absorbent pads designed to soak up oil-based liquids such as fuel but repel water."

In addition, said von den Hoff, "The Regatta Office ordered all "green" towels, cups and toilet paper to use in the office. We also moved to paperless registration as much as possible and reduced our usage by six cases of paper. Re-usable bow numbers, which had been used for years and were on the verge of being discontinued, were re-instated and repaired in order to continue using them."

At last year's Antigua Sailing Week, said Bernie Evan-Wong, a participant and one of the event organizers, "We began selling and encouraging the use of reusable shopping bags as opposed to disposable plastic bags."

In the BVI, with recycling already in place, organizers went one step further.

"The reduction of plastic water bottles was a perfect addition to our recycling," said Petz. "Our goal was to reduce at least 30 percent, but when Chuck Peterson from Clearwater offered to provided free water and refill all the reusable water bottles, which were donated by the BVI Tourist Board, we exceeded our goal."

This year, said Petz, "in addition to recycling, glass and plastic, we are implementing the use of biodegradable containers for the food vendors and bar cups." Take-out or take-away containers are normally made of Styrofoam, which can take years to disintegrate in landfill or the sea. Biodegradable containers and cups, which are supplied by Green Technology (BVI) Ltd, are made from sugar cane and, when deposited into a compost site, will disintegrate in 90 to 120 days. Even if they are burned as trash, there are no CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) or toxic chemicals that filter into the air.

This year, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta also moved to biodegradable cups, compliments of Heineken.

"It's important to communicate to event participants that this program is underway so every individual can participate," said SFS's Mancini.

One very beneficial effect of these initial efforts is proving itself – emulation. In addition to the St. Maarten, BVI and Antigua regattas, the BVI Charter Yacht Show was also a Clean Regatta in 2009, and in 2010 the BVI Kite Jam and Les Voiles de St. Barth 2010 have also come onboard the Clean Regattas program.

The BVI's Petz said, "Our program to help reduce plastic by using refillable and reusable water bottles is now in almost every event in the BVI and elsewhere. In addition to the positive effect on the environment, it is also a wonderful marketing vehicle, which we didn't recognize until we saw our water bottles being reused months later at another island's event."
For more information about the Clean Regatta program, visit www.cleanregattas.org and register online. Or, for additional information, email cleanregattas@sailorsforthesea.org.

Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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