Sailing for climate change

13 Aug


Greta Thunberg – climate activist


I have been known to be a little cynical about publicity stunts and for good reason but this one I kind of like. Greta Thunberg, a climate activist from Sweden has teamed up with my friend Boris Hermann in an interesting way. They leave today to sail Boris’s IMOCA 60 Malizia II across the Atlantic to New York for the United Nations Climate Change Conference that will take place later this month.  Greta Thunberg is a climate activist who, at age 15, began protesting outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018 about the need for immediate action to combat climate change. Her “school strike for the climate” began attracting media attention and she has since become an outspoken climate activist. Her “school strike for climate movement” began in November 2018 and spread globally after the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December the same year. On 15 March this year an estimated 1.4 million students in 112 countries around the world joined her call in striking and protesting. A similar event involving students from 125 countries took place in May. In July 2019, on behalf of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), secretary-general Mohammed Barkindo declared Thunberg, and other young climate activists as the “greatest threat” to the fossil fuel industry. So clearly her message is resonating and being spread globally but now she finds herself in a conundrum. Greta wants to attend the UN Climate Change Conference but taking a plane is against her ethos because of the huge carbon footprint left by the airlines. Enter Boris Herrman.
Boris Hermann – inside Greta’s ride across the Atlantic
Boris is an old friend and is not only a world class sailor, he is a very astute marketer. He won a race that I co-founded a decade ago – the first around-the-world-race for Class 40’s, solo and double-handed, and has since gone on to a very successful career as a professional sailor. He is the skipper of Malizia II which is sponsored by the Yacht Club De Moncao and he plans to use his yacht to compete in the 2020 Vendee Globe and 2021 The Ocean Race. As most of these professional sailors know it’s all about driving eyeballs and you need to keep in the spotlight. I don’t know the details of how this came about but Greta is hitching a ride across the Atlantic with Boris and his crew. Malizia II is powered by wind turbines and solar panels and as such will leave very little or no carbon footprint allowing Greta to claim that she will be the only person that made it to the conference without damaging the climate. Ok that’s a little too cute by half because one must ask how much emissions were emitted in the building of the boat and how is she getting back home to Sweden? After two weeks on an IMOCA 60 with freeze dried food, no way to shower and a bucket on deck for a toilet I am not sure that she will be up for another crossing. But in all it’s a good publicity stunt and I commend both Greta and Boris for the effort. Every little bit helps as we are rapidly ruining this little blue marble that we call home.
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This article was syndicated from Great Circle Sails Blog


  1. David Smith

    Our planet has undergone massive climate changes as far back as scientists can determine – without humans. But now we’re the cause? Please…

    The idea that we, mankind, are causing the climate to change is a theory. Before we start spending billions of tax dollars the theory needs to be proven. Until that happens, lets stop treating the theory as fact.

  2. Sebastian E. Kuhn

    I’m sorry for people like Carol and Art. Just because you desperately want to believe it ain’t so, you stick your head in the ground and ignore the scientific consensus and literally 1000’s of indicators all around us that
    a) the climate IS warming significantly
    b) human activities are largely the cause.
    We can argue what the best course of action is at this point, but because climate change deniers have managed to drag their collective feet for so long (the problem was well-known and could have been addressed 30 years ago), we are now looking at drastic steps that people may want to avoid by denying the obvious. You are right, “the earth” is not (about to be) “ruined” – but the life, livelihood, and well-being of millions of people, let alone countless other species are.

  3. carol

    So, sailing as with so many other activities is now the playground of environmental propaganda 24/7. When you get to the core of this article it comes down to pandering.” Quote “… it’s all about driving eyeballs and you need to keep in the spotlight.” and “But in all it’s a good publicity stunt.” The earth is not ruined… we’re just made to believe it is with the articles like this. Please, give us sailing.

  4. Art Liming

    I think that politics has got it all wrong. There may be a small amount of warming, but there has to be a better way to approach this. Our info is skewed. Our models are wrong. None of them agree. Global warming as it is presented to the world is BS.

  5. Henrik Christophersen

    Almost everything we rich people do has a significant carbon footprint. The combined carbon footprint of Greta’s ride is probably huge compared to some flights. But she’s contributing to an important discussion how we limit our impact. In a few years we may have to pay for recapture of the GHG we create when we fly. But it will only work if it is mandated and applies to everybody on the plane…

  6. Peter Nilsson

    Greta Thunberg, what an admirable young global citizen! Hopefully she can join up with Malala Yousafzai to figure a better way to combine education and climate change rather than “school strike for climate movement” that could benefit oil barons counting on unschooled or uneducated adults to spread misinformation to destroy our only livable world for profit. Perhaps a “purposeful environmental education movement” would work better. These two youngsters are certainly smarter than I am so I’m sure they can come up with something better that will both educate more boys AND girls against the misinformation adults are spreading for profit at especially the next generation’s peril.

    Ironic that a 15 year old girl is the “greatest threat” to the fossil fuel industry, while the grown ups profiting most from that industry are actually the “greatest threat” to life on the only livable planet we know. Good for her!

    Fly the crowded skies or sail the Atlantic, … hmm …

    Terry, I think the wooden tar-sealed Viking ships were unavailable or out of position.

  7. unum

    Regrettably, there is no zero-carbon way to cross the ocean at present. But this way probably has the lowest carbon footprint that is feasible.

    “the boatyards that construct the yachts are aware of the resulting and indisputable environmental impact during boat construction and attach great importance on a sustainable building process.

    Therefore moulds are made with recycled dry carbon fibre and reused for building the hulls and decks of several new boats.

    Old carbon fibre material is also turned into powder and reused in resins for further construction, and all sorts of construction materials are recycled and reused on new boats.”

  8. Dale Costello

    We aren’t quite there yet Terry. But the young lady is well intentioned and her efforts to halt the warming of our world is a giant step in that direction. The goal can be won, if everyone participates.

  9. Terry Fields

    I saw her story on the national news as well. Great spirit in this young girl. I would like to know how many petroleum based products went into building and outfitting this high tech ride she’s using.

    If you’re going to talk the talk, you must walk the walk.

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