Speeding towards sustainability
Speeding towards sustainability
Purpose

Speeding towards sustainability

A closer look at the London to Monaco cycle ride, part of the Blue Marine Foundation’s (BLUE) efforts to conserve the oceans.

By Dominique Afacan | 18 October 2017

As Sara-Jane Skinner and 34 of her fellow cyclists peddled over the finish line at last year’s London to Monaco cycle ride – she felt an adrenalin rush like never before. With 1400 kilometres and 19,000 metres of elevation under her belt, her endorphins must have been through the roof – but there was more to it than that. The ride was part of the Blue Marine Foundation’s (BLUE) efforts to conserve the oceans – and crossing that line meant that nearly £250,000 of donations (more are still coming in) would be going to conservation projects across the world.

“It was pretty emotional,” says Skinner, who is Blue Marine’s head of partnerships. “It means that, over the last two years, since the London to Monaco began, we’ve raised over half a million pounds, which is fantastic. Now, we’re planning a third.” Proceeds from this year’s race, which 68 riders in total took part in, will go towards projects in Ascension Island, The Maldives, Mediterranean and The Solent. In the latter, the aim is to restore the native oyster population. “They are an integral part of the marine ecosystem over there,” explains Skinner. “Oysters encourage biodiversity by creating natural habitats for other species to live. Once upon a time, The Solent supported the largest oyster fishery in Europe.”

Speeding towards sustainability

Sara-Jane Skinner en route to Monaco. Photo by David Churchill

Speeding towards sustainability

Sara-Jane Skinner en route to Monaco. Photo by David Churchill

Last year, almost £280,000 raised from the Cycle was split between projects in Ascension Island and the Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea. “The money helped pave the way for creating what will be Italy’s largest marine protected area,” says Skinner of the latter. Meanwhile, in Ascension, the charity helped to develop a new science classroom at the local school and provide the children with new science equipment amongst other things. More crucially, the support they provided helped win the hearts and minds of the Ascension Islanders. “They realised they would have a better future if they invested in their conservation rather than earning money from selling longline fishing licenses, which are highly destructive to the natural marine environment. That was huge,” says Skinner.

The charity’s success over both projects is pretty reflective of the impressive achievements of the Blue Marine Foundation, which was launched seven years ago by the team behind the film The End of the Line. Beyond winning a clutch of awards, the film grabbed the world’s attention with its portrayal of the overfishing crisis. “Having done that film and raised awareness of the issue – the team saw an opportunity to set up a charity,” explains Skinner. “Right from the start, they were very successful at raising funds from private owners and brokering deals with the government to secure large marine protected areas. Since then, BLUE has earned a reputation for getting stuff done.” Last year, 86p of every pound donated to the charity went right back into their projects, most of which aim to tackle overfishing and protect biodiversity.

Speeding towards sustainability

London to Monaco 2017 riders departing the town of Sisteron riding over the River Durance, on Day 8. Photo by David Churchill

Speeding towards sustainability

London to Monaco 2017 riders departing the town of Sisteron riding over the River Durance, on Day 8. Photo by David Churchill

Environmental issues are slowly but surely getting more and more airtime in superyachting circles, thanks to the efforts of foundations such as Blue Marine. At this year’s Monaco Yacht Show, Fraser Yachts announced their partnership with The Plastic Oceans Foundation, while Y.CO held a breakfast with environmentalist Emily Penn. Progress like this has been a long time coming, but it certainly seems that sustainability is fast becoming a critical part of any forward-thinking yachting agenda. “Peter Lürssen was one of the first to take a big step forward and he has been fantastic in rallying his peers to do the same,” says Skinner, of the German shipbuilder. “We also have the support of Feadship, Benetti and Amels now and hope to gain support from others. Collectively, a lot more can be done. Together we will be protecting not only the future of our ocean but also the industry.”

Superyacht owners, too, with their obvious love for the oceans, are keen to help out and the charity also runs the Blue Marine Yacht Club of which HRH Prince Albert of Monaco is the Founding Patron, for yacht owners, who fly the BMYC flag as a symbol of their commitment to ocean conservation. Annual membership fees go directly towards BLUE’s work. “The funder of our very first project was Ernesto Bertarelli, for example,” says Skinner, referencing the owner of 97m superyacht Vava II, “but we are keen to engage with the wider industry, too. The London to Monaco cycle ride was popular with captains and crew. It’s all about making sure everyone can take part and play a role.”

Speeding towards sustainability

London to Monaco 2017 riders with Prince Albert, Founding Patron of Blue Marine Yacht Club. Photo by David Churchill

Speeding towards sustainability

London to Monaco 2017 riders with Prince Albert, Founding Patron of Blue Marine Yacht Club. Photo by David Churchill

Even now that the endorphins have worn off, Skinner is infectiously positive about the future. “The superyacht industry obviously has the potential to raise huge sums and collectively bring about a lot of change,” she says. “I think we are beginning to see that happen.”

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