Saving the seas we sail on

Crew of Dunia Baru providing earthquake relief in Lombok.

Saving the seas we sail on

Crew of Dunia Baru providing earthquake relief in Lombok.

Purpose

Saving the seas we sail on

Why ocean conservation has become a priority to a new breed of superyacht owner

By Dominique Afacan | 3 April 2019

“More and more superyacht owners are starting to combine two things they enjoy; being on the water and being proactive about improving the world around them.” So says Mark Drewelow, the founder of YachtAid Global, an organisation which helps yachts wanting to aid conservation efforts in the communities they visit.

Considering that the oceans lie at the heart of the superyacht lifestyle, it’s perhaps not surprising that owners are increasingly keen to keep them clean. Drewelow points to some high profile examples of these proactive owners, including Ray Dalio, whose yacht Alucia was built specifically to help broaden the world’s understanding of the oceans. With unrivalled diving, filming and scientific equipment, the boat has carried out numerous projects, from giant squid searches in the Ogasawa Islands to jellyfish research in Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

Saving the seas we sail on

Launching a submersible off Alucia. Photo: OceanX

Saving the seas we sail on

Launching a submersible off Alucia. Photo: OceanX

Alucia 2, which will be delivered later this year, has equally grand ambitions, with space for three submarines, a helicopter landing deck and even a media production centre, which will allow the team to deliver documentaries about their findings while still at sea. “There’s a growing sense that it’s harder to enjoy being on the water when you’re turning a blind eye to the problems our oceans are facing,” explains Drewlow. “We encourage owners to get in touch as we’re able to take their passions and help them with the logistics, permissions and planning to get projects like this underway.”

Examples such as Alucia might once have been few and far between, but today it’s a different story. REV, a ground-breaking yacht project, has already hit the headlines numerous times, despite still being in build. Driven by Norwegian billionaire Kjell Inge Røkke, REV will be the world’s largest research and expedition vessel when completed next year. Although the owner and his family will spend time on board, its driving force is research.  At 186 metres in length, there will even be room for an auditorium on board – the ideal place for scientists to share their discoveries.

Saving the seas we sail on

Dunia Baru providing earthquake relief in Lombok.

Saving the seas we sail on

Dunia Baru providing earthquake relief in Lombok.

These owner-lead environmental efforts are not restricted to those building immense research yachts – there are plenty more using their existing vessels to provide relief across the globe – such as Dunia Baru which recently provided relief to earthquake-struck Lombok or DragonFly, one of a number of yachts which recently took part in Operation Beagle to deliver clean water access to 8000 school children in the Galapagos – and yet more who are launching foundations and charities in the same vein.

The owners of Vava 2, Ernesto and Kirsty Bertarelli, are a case in point. The couple was so compelled to help preserve the marine environment, that they launched the Bertarelli Foundation back in 2008. From tracking hawksbill turtles in British Indian Ocean Territory for the first time earlier this year – to embarking on revolutionary coral reef research expeditions – the foundation tackles some of the biggest issues in marine conservation – often offering up their own vessel to do so.

The Living Oceans Foundation, meanwhile, launched by yacht owner Prince Khaled bin Sultan, has carried out multiple projects since its launch in 2000, including the world’s largest high-resolution mapping expedition.  And 11th Hour Racing, set up by yacht owner Wendy Schmidt, is yet another example, which supports the development of environmentally friendly practices in the industry and encourages ocean preservation through sponsorship of regattas and sailing races. Schmidt’s own yacht, Elfje, was designed to be as fuel-efficient as possible – another growing trend among owners.

“I think the new wave of environmental conservation coming from those with wealth and influence is due to the fact that they are waking up to the dire situation we’ve found ourselves in,” says Tony Gilbert, program director at the International Seakeepers Society, which helps yachts become platforms for marine research and conservation. “At this point, it’s impossible to ignore. It’s no longer a political issue.  It’s a global issue, based on facts and scientific data.”

Saving the seas we sail on

Archimedes worked with International Seakeepers Society to monitor shark movements. Photo: International Seakeepers Society

Saving the seas we sail on

Archimedes worked with International Seakeepers Society to monitor shark movements. Photo: International Seakeepers Society

Their Discovery Yacht Programme has encouraged many owners to allow their vessels to be used for science and conservation. “There are plenty of examples,” says Gilbert, “including Bill Simons and his yacht Archimedes, Jack McClurg and his yacht Marcato, and one of our biggest supporters, Michael Saylor, who owns several vessels, many of which we’ve used for SeaKeepers expeditions and projects.”

The trend in the superyachting industry follows a wider trend in the outside world, epitomised by the likes of The Giving Pledge – a campaign launched by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet back in 2010 and which has since been signed by over 150 billionaires, who together have pledged to give over US$350m back to society. In the yachting industry, it’s often people with the same spending power who are able to make waves in an area that they hold dear.

“Almost two-thirds of the planet is covered by our oceans and seas; any scientific study and conservation efforts to preserve them is key to the survival of the world,” says Gilbert. “Yacht owners are in a unique position to use their vessels and resources for these purposes.”

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