Hosted live from Newport, RI, the latest online iteration of The Ocean Race Summits promoted solutions to restore health to the ocean.
“We can solve this.”
That was how Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island concluded his remarks as he addressed over 680 registered participants at The Ocean Race Summits event hosted out of the Sail Newport facility in his home state.
The Senator was among an engaging and diverse group of international experts, youth leaders and changemakers brought together to tackle the challenges facing our ocean and to develop and share solutions that promote the restoration of ocean health.
“For many generations, we have been takers from the ocean and we have to change our mindset and be caretakers of the oceans,” the Senator said.
“People have to put their mind to think about oceans in order to appreciate the work that needs to be done. But it can be done. It has to be done rapidly and with intention. But we can solve this.”
The Ocean Race Summits aim to bring the spirit and values of ocean racing – leadership, resilience, tenacity, collaboration – to bear on the challenges facing the health of our ocean.
Using an innovative and engaging online platform, including eight collaborative Action Labs focused on developing and sharing solutions, as well as Live Q+A and Networking sessions, the Summit tackled challenging issues head-on with an emphasis on action and results.
“The ocean is the most important ecosystem in our life,” said José María Figueres, the former prime minister of Costa Rica and co-founder of Ocean Unite. “Without a healthy ocean there is no life on the planet.”
Mr. Figueres pointed to increasing the number of Marine Protected Areas, stopping climate change, and reaching an international agreement on governance of the High Seas as critical pathways towards restoring ocean health.
World renowned sailors Mark Towill (USA), CEO of the 11th Hour Racing Team, and Peter Burling (NZL), an Olympic gold medalist and America’s Cup winner who was inspired to start an ocean foundation after competing in the 2017-18 edition of The Ocean Race, spoke about leveraging sport to make a positive impact.
“We want to demonstrate that being competitive at top level sport and prioritising sustainability are not exclusive,” Towill said. “It is to our benefit to be leaders in this space and to encourage others to join in… We’re at a tipping point and we want our team to be driving change.”
“What scared me most during the last edition of The Ocean Race was what I didn’t see – the lack of whales, albatross, tuna, compared to the stories I heard about in the past,” said Burling, a co-founder of Live Ocean, which focuses on ocean protection and restoration. “The difference to where we are now is pretty scary and it shows how urgent the issue is.”
The Ocean Race Summits have been developed in collaboration with 11th Hour Racing, an organisation that establishes strategic partnerships to promote collaborative, systemic change benefitting the health of the ocean. Co-founder, Wendy Schmidt (USA), explained how this moment is a critical opportunity to contribute to science and to shift public perception about what ocean health means.
“At 11th Hour Racing we’re working with The Ocean Race to reach audiences around the world – whether online, at Summits, or at Exploration Zones at stopover cities during the next Race – and changing their perceptions,” said Schmidt, who is a philanthropist and investor, as well as a competitive sailor.
“Together we have a unique opportunity to join the sport we love with the science we need for the ocean.”
Youth leaders and young ocean ambassadors were enlisted to moderate Live Q+A sessions with panelists and registered participants, with the future leaders showing the potential for a brighter future.
“I am hopeful because there is a wave of renewed interest in ocean issues, especially among the younger generations,” concluded Mr. Figueres. “And I am very optimistic because the more we share knowledge about these issues, as is an objective of The Ocean Race, the more we become committed to these causes.”
The Ocean Race Summits are a series of solutions-focused events bringing together leaders from a wide range of fields to target the restoration of ocean health. The current series of Summits started in Genoa, Italy last autumn, with a second online and virtual event based out of The Hague in May. Up to ten events will be held before the conclusion of the next edition of The Ocean Race.