Trash busters! Eco sailors aim to reduce ocean waste

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Story highlights

11th Hour Racing an entrant in Transat Jacques Vabre

Team has pledged to end practice of dumping rubbish overboard

Rob Windsor and Hannah Jenner crew their 40 foot monohull

Annual event attracts some of the best long distance sailors in the world

CNN  — 

Take a walk along almost any beach in any part of the world and one’s experience is often spoiled by the sight of trash – flotsam and jetsam – washed ashore from the ocean.

It’s a massive global problem, made worse by the modern use of plastics that do not readily biodegrade.

One area of the North Pacific has earned the unwanted tag of “the Great Pacific Garbage patch” and covers double the size of Texas – with an estimated six kilos of plastic for every kilo of natural plankton.

This swirls about 20 meters below the surface of the water and, with other slowly degrading garbage, poses an obvious threat to marine life and the ecological balance.

Marine conservation groups have long campaigned for better environmental protection of our oceans, but have now found high-profile support from a pair of world-class long-distance racing sailors – Rob Windsor of the United States and Britain’s Hannah Jenner.

Sharp focus

They have brought into sharp focus a practice that neither other competitors taking part in epic yachting classics nor the sponsors of these events would ever wish to dwell upon.

Crews – desperate to free up space in their cramped conditions and ever mindful of the need to save weight – leave their own trail of trash dumped overboard as they sail as fast as possible across the oceans.

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Until now it’s been standard practice for their fellow competitors, who must balance environmental concerns with obvious practical necessity, particularly when at sea for extended periods.

But Windsor and Jenner, among the favorites to win the Transat Jacques Vabre – a month-long, 5,600-nautical-mile race from France to Brazil – are pledging to stop the dumping as part of a new eco-friendly approach to ocean racing.

“Cleaner. Faster. Better” is the motto of Windsor and Jenner’s 11th Hour Racing team and they want to be as good as their word.

The pair have been rigorously training for several months in their 40-foot monohull for the annual event, considered one of the most prestigious on the yachting calendar, which the 44 entries started from Le Havre on Thursday after a delay for bad weather.

Education lesson

They both admitted that in the past they had been guilty of tossing items like tin and soda cans into the sea, believing that salt water would quickly eat it away.