Tired Earth: An Interview with Johan Strid, Director of The Ocean Race Summits at The Ocean Race
This interview was conducted by Selva Ozelli
Tell us about The Ocean Race.
The Ocean Race is a round-the-world sailing competition in which teams speed across the planet, powered only by the wind. Started in 1973 (then called Whitbread Round the World Race), the competition has gone on to become one of the sport's big three events, alongside the Olympic Games and the America's Cup, and has earned a reputation as the toughest test to a team in sport.
The Race is a feat of human endeavour like no other. Teams live and work together side-by-side for six months, sailing through some of the harshest environments on the planet, such as the mighty Southern Ocean, and stopping at iconic cities around the globe along the way.
As sailors we have a unique relationship with the ocean. It's our racetrack and we are bearing witness to its decline. This close connection and unique perspective has meant protecting the marine environment has been front of mind from the outset. With 11th Hour Racing, the Founding Partner of our Racing with Purpose sustainability programme, we have created a plan of action that is focused on not just making our event as sustainable as possible, but also on educating, inspiring and influencing a diverse range of audiences to protect the ocean.
Tell us about the theme of The Ocean Race 2022-23 and with this theme what you intend to draw attention to concerning ocean sustainability related issues?
The Race, which starts in January 2023 in Alicante, Spain, will embody the two most important components of our event: the incredible human challenge and the urgent need to protect the ocean.
With the longest leg in the Race's history, 12,750 nautical miles from Cape Town, South Africa, to Itajaí, Brazil, around 25 days circling the icy waters of Antarctica, we will see the world's best sailors battle the elements and achieve the truly extraordinary. We will also see incredible team work and what is possible when people come together to achieve a goal.
Joining forces is also at the heart of our ocean health campaign, One Blue Voice (www.onebluevoice.net), which is focused on raising awareness of the need for the ocean's rights to be recognised on a global level and drive vital support. Launching on 29th June and running throughout the Race, the campaign will gather signatures from fans, followers and wider audiences, calling for a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights, which would set out a comprehensive way of effectively governing the ocean to ensure it is properly protected. We hope to present the petition in conjunction with the United Nations at the UN General Assembly in September 2023.
2023 is our 50th birthday, so we will also be celebrating this milestone by highlighting past legends of the Race and some of the truly remarkable moments from the last five decades.
How does The Ocean Race impact Climate?
Producing a high-quality global event means there are unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), for example, there is the necessity to transport our workforce and equipment internationally and power our onsite event space.
We closely examine every element of our resources and activities to measure our impact and drive it down, including across the key areas of energy, logistics and travel. Another important element is inspiring and incentivising the many stakeholders and suppliers that we work with across the event to ensure that they are measuring and reducing their impact too.
We also work to grow understanding around climate issues, particularly the link between the ocean and climate, with our fans as well as wider audiences, including children, through our dedicated Learning Programmes.
Does Ocean Race collaborate with the United Nations?
We have a lot of connections with the UN, and of course our work supports the UN SDG's, in particular SDG 14: Life Below Water.
During the last edition of the Race, we aligned with UNEP's Clean Seas programme, with our big focus on turning the tide on plastic. This edition we have a partnership with IOC UNESCO, focusing on our science programme along with the UN's Ocean Decade.
We also have an initiative called Relay4Nature, which is a cooperation between The Ocean Race and the United Nations Secretary General's Special Envoy for the Ocean, Peter Thomson. Relay4Nature links the key environmental conferences, to highlight that the pressing environmental challenges of our times, including greenhouse gas emissions and humankind's mistreatment of Nature, are connected. Symbolised by Nature's Baton, which is passed on in a relay between significant decision makers, it also conveys that to protect the planet we can not work in silos.
Tell us about The Ocean Race's membership in Net Zero initiative.
As a signatory to UN's Sports For Climate Action, we're enrolled in the Race to Zero. This means we're committed to halving our GHGs by 2030, that we support the ambitious target of Net Zero by 2040, and that we are using our race platform to advocate and educate around climate action.
For this next race edition, our early estimates show a potential for a significant reduction in race organiser emissions.
For the residual GHGs, we have a programme to support 'blue carbon' projects which will draw-down carbon on our behalf, with a focus on mangrove conservation and restoration. This is our Race to Restore.
Tell us about The Ocean Race Summits.
We held the first of The Ocean Race Summits during the 2014-15 edition of the Race, at the stopover in Newport, Rhode Island. Following its success, the Summits have evolved into one of the main pillars of our Racing with Purpose programme. During the 2017-18 edition, the Summits focused on finding innovative solutions to the global crisis of ocean plastic and to inspire action to help turn the tide on this urgent and most pressing issue.
Our current series of Summits is focused on exploring the concept of ocean rights and how this can be included in ocean governance and policy. At the heart of this is the idea that just as we have one ocean, we need one set of rules to protect it. A universal approach to protecting the marine environment would help to shift perception of how we treat it, from a resource to use and exploit, to a vital, complex, system that fuels all life on the planet. Our marine world should be valued, not just for the services that it provides to us, but because the ocean has a right to thrive.
The series aims to build awareness and support for ocean rights with policy-makers and other influential audiences. Each event brings together the perspectives of a range of key players from government, science, sport and NGOs along with other key ocean advocates. Hosted across the world in order to gather a broad range of global perspectives and examples of best practice, the Summits provide the opportunity to gather a range of insights on ocean rights, which are later analysed and discussed in a series of workshops, named The Genova Process, with experts in international law, policy, diplomacy and ocean science. From this, the draft principles for a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights will be created. We are working closely with two organisations specialising in the rights of nature: Earth Law Center, and Nature's Rights, along with Antonio di Natale, a leading marine biologist and scientific advisor on ocean matters from Genova, Italy.
This series of 12 Summits is building up to the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2023, where we plan on presenting the principles for a Declaration in conjunction with the meeting. If the concept is adopted member countries will craft the Declaration, which we hope would be in place by 2030.
We have had some fantastic speakers at our Summits, including presidents and royals and look forward to hosting six more events ahead of the UNGA next year.
With the backing of countries and high-level influencers, alongside the public support through One Blue Voice, we hope to present a strong case for ocean rights.
How can people get in touch and be part of The Ocean Race?
The Race will be visiting four continents in 2023 (you can see the route here), with an opportunity to watch the teams in action and visit the Ocean Live Park, our dedicated onsite hub, where you can learn more about the Race and One Blue Voice.
For those who aren't able to see the Race in person, please help us gain support for ocean rights by signing our petition, sharing it with your friends and family, and following our Instagram account to keep up to date with developments. Stand up, speak up and sign up for ocean rights!