NZ SailGP Team Impact League Victory Secures Funding For Kelp Restoration Research

Monday 28 March, Auckland

The New Zealand SailGP Team has been crowned inaugural Impact League champions at the SailGP Season 2 Grand Final in San Francisco today, winning USD $100,000 prize money for its Race for the Future charity partner, Live Ocean Foundation.

A second leaderboard which runs alongside the Season Championship, the Impact League tracks the positive actions teams take during the season to reduce their overall footprint and help accelerate inclusivity in sailing. SailGP’s Impact League is sport’s first podium for the planet.

The prize money will be used to support Live Ocean Foundation’s partner research into the significance of kelp forests and their regeneration. This work is being led by Dr Nick Shears and Dr Caitlin Blain from the University of Auckland.

Kelp is vital for ocean ecosystems to flourish, creating habitats for marine life and is hugely efficient at fixing carbon. However, many coastlines which were once home to vast forests of kelp, now lie bare, thriving reef ecosystems replaced by sea urchin barrens.

“In New Zealand, it’s estimated that up to half of the kelp forest on shallow reefs around Hauturu-o-Toi (Little Barrier Island) is now gone. Our research will examine the role of marine protection and restoration in allowing kelp forests to bloom, and their associated marine life to return and flourish,” said Dr Nick Shears.

The research project is also investigating how kelp forests contribute to coastal carbon cycles. The work will help researchers understand the role of kelp forests in climate change mitigation and provides an exciting potential opportunity for quantifying and valuing blue carbon.

The New Zealand SailGP Team has led the Impact League since its inception in season two and committed themselves to finding ways to improve their sustainability. “We’re stoked to win the first Impact League. It’s been a massive team effort from everyone involved, from the shore team, the sailing team, management and our partners,” said Peter Burling. “We’ve taken a close look at every area of our operations throughout the season to find ways to improve, develop innovative solutions, introduce new technologies, connect with sustainable partners and use our voice to champion action for a healthy ocean with our Race for the Future partner Live Ocean Foundation.”

A major contributing factor to the New Zealand SailGP Team’s Impact League success has been the way it has used its platform to raise awareness of the critical role a healthy ocean plays in a healthy future.

From shining a spotlight on the plight of the Antipodean Albatross through an emotive global broadcast video shown during the Spain Grand Prix, to displaying SDG14 – ‘Life Below Water’ on its wing at the Mubadala United States Grand Prix and partnering with Yachting New Zealand on a Clean Club programme, the team has committed to championing action for a healthy ocean.

However, while the team has engaged in numerous large-scale campaigns, it has been the many small improvements over the season that have seen the largest collective impact. The New Zealand SailGP Team consistently scored in the top three teams for the lowest chase boat fuel usage, reduced its water consumption by 36 per cent and increased its percentage of vegetarian meals at events from 18 to 66 per cent among many other refinements.

“Increasing awareness of the vital role a healthy ocean plays in a healthy future has been a massive focus for us this season so it’s awesome that the Impact League victory will enable us to support this important work by the University of Auckland through our partnership with Live Ocean Foundation,” said Blair Tuke.

Tuke said while it was a great result for the team and Live Ocean Foundation, it has also been incredibly positive to see all SailGP teams stepping up their game and pushing each other throughout the season to improve. “Through sport we have an opportunity to connect people to the issues our planet faces and it’s great to see all the teams with their Race for the Future partners pushing hard for their respective purposes. By embedding this into the League and turning it into a competition, it’s become a real priority for every team.”

“Sport and sportspeople play a vital role in bringing people around the big issues of our time. Seeing the SailGP league and New Zealand team step up to this and work hard on their own actions has been a real thrill. We’re incredibly proud of their win,” said Sally Paterson, Live Ocean chief executive. “The prize money will fund much-needed research into the importance of kelp forests and their regeneration. We know kelp grows and absorbs carbon at astounding rates, this research aims to quantify how much carbon is sequestered by kelp and how we can protect areas to allow it to flourish. This will be a vital piece in informing good policy and decisions around the potential for blue carbon.”

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