Fresh off the operating table, I am lying in bed in a Zurich clinic. Fortunately, the upgrade I’m enjoying makes it easy for me to make the most of the thoroughly unpleasant situation. Either way it was just a planned routine procedure, for which I have no reason to sue, especially since everything went as anticipated. Nevertheless, I’ve earned a bit of time to recover. In this, I find the time to tell you more about my plans, as all too often I’m asked what I’m currently doing. In short: I will be taking part in an eleven-month sailing race around the world and blogging about it. On one hand, I would like to raise awareness for the problem of our severely polluted oceans. On the other, I’m intending to raise money for The Ocean Cleanup in a variety of ways – a project aimed at ridding the world’s oceans of man-made pollution.
The Sail Race
It’s full name is the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and it’s the largest sailing race for amateur sailors. The first race started in October 1996, since then it has been held essentially every two years. Currently, the organization has 12 identical boats (Clipper 70) each with a skipper, the rest of the crew are people like you and me. Principally, the race is open to all, but you have to complete four weeks of intensive training to be admitted. The participants have the option to register for individual stages or, as I have done, to circumnavigate the globe. The start will be in Liverpool in August 2017, the exact route is not yet definite. My commitment to The Ocean Cleanup is not directly linked to the Clipper Racing Organisation.
The Ocean Cleanup
Bojan Slat founded The Ocean Cleanup as a teenager in 2013. After a holiday in Greece, the Dutchman was shocked by the fact that he saw more plastic bags on his snorkel expedition than fish. With the vision to clean the seas with a passive (fixed anchored) installation in the rotating garbage patches * with relatively little effort, he began crowdfunding. This backing not only exceeded the financial target by leaps and bounds, but also attracted various researchers and organisations to offer their support. Today, The Ocean Cleanup employs over 50 people who are primarily concerned with investigating the complexity of problems surrounding plastic. They are currently researching in the laboratory using prototypes, for example, the behaviour of plastic in salt water, or the composition of the Great Pacific garbage patches using ships and aircraft, in order to understand the amount of plastic needing to be managed. As a result of these and other research activities, The Ocean Cleanup is currently installing a prototype in the North Sea. If all goes according to plan, this year the first fully functioning installation in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch can be installed. The goal is to have started the clean up of all 5 garbage patches by 2020.
As I described at the beginning, I am going to report on my trip as actively and up to the minute as possible in order to reach as many people and to draw attention to the problematic conditions in our seas as possible. During the race, my commitment to cleaner oceans will be mainly in the form of an awareness campaign, intending to raise understanding among my fellow men and to popularise the name of The Ocean Cleanup. After the race, I will talk about my adventure at various speaking engagements and collect donations, 100% of which I will give directly to The Ocean Cleanup. At the moment, I am running a crowdfunding campaign to finance my equipment, with 50% of the proceeds being donated to The Ocean Cleanup (I am also very happy about the smallest amounts! Thank you!).
It is something especially extraordinary, far outside of my own comfort zone, pushing my personal stress to the limit. I will certainly regret my decision, especially when we’re fighting high waves in southern waters in near-freezing temperatures, soaked, and sleep deprived. Nevertheless, the offshore sailing has fascinated me for quite some time, and when I, by chance, came into contact with a Clipper Race Alumni in London in October 2016, I knew after the first few minutes of our conversation that this is something I want to and must do. At the time, I was in a stage life where the universe had shown me in the years previous that good friends in the prime of their lives can be taken from us for a variety of reasons. The sad regularity of these events moved my “career mentality” onto the back burner, and led me to venture to do what might get me labelled as crazy. Nevertheless, I can say that the feedback from those around me is through and through positive, which naturally motivates me – even if only very few of my friends would come along.
I hope to have brought you something closer to me and look forward to your input or questions.
* Garbage patches are the “waste islands” trapped in the currents: