March 23, 2012

After 160 years of competition, the battle for the world’s oldest sporting trophy will be fought for in a dramatically different way this time around. The history and the tradition of this great competition—which exceeds even that of the Olympics—remain, but the 34th America’s Cup is a brand new game with a brand new message: saving the ocean.

In 2013, San Francisco will welcome the America’s Cup race to her waters.  For the first time ever, stadium-style racing will put over 7 million spectators at the heart of the America’s Cup action. Coverage of the event will allow more people in more places around the world to tune in than ever before.

But beyond the appeal of fast boats and extreme sports, the America’s Cup team has vowed to deliver the next race as a model sustainable sporting event. They hope to expand beyond the boundaries of sport alone and deliver a meaningful social, economic and environmental impact.

The team has dubbed this facet of their work the America’s Cup Healthy Ocean Project. Because of the intrinsic connection between sailing and the ocean, the choice to honor the ocean came naturally. Using its global communications platform to amplify the oceans’ voice, the Healthy Oceans project aims to inspire more people around the world to care about the ocean, to take action for the ocean and to leave a lasting legacy for the benefit of future generations.

For starters, the race will be carbon neutral and aims to generate minimum waste by providing only reusable water bottles at the venue. The project is also campaigning for Bay area consumers to be cognizant of sustainable seafood and aims to increase the venues that serve sustainable seafood from 11 to 100 restaurants before the race takes place. During the days leading up the race, beach cleanups will give fans and athletes the chance to volunteer for the ocean, and numerous information sessions will be organized to promote awareness of ocean issues.

The project’s most ambitious goal involves forming a brand new marine protected area with proceeds and donations generated from the race. The team is currently working to identify a suitable location for this future protected area, with sites in the Philippines, Indonesia, and the Solomon Islands ranking high on the list of potentials. Local people’s participation would be an integral component in the preservation and management of their natural heritage. Marine reserves in the San Francisco area stand to gain support, too. 

Oceanographer Sylvia Earle serves as the America’s Cup Healthy Ocean Projects Global Ambassador, guiding the team about the most pressing ocean issues and best science for tackling those challenges.

Top Image Credit: Alexis Fernandez Penney 

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