The launch of Relay4Nature marks the start of an exciting new collaborative programme ahead of this year’s major global environmental and ocean summits. An initiative of The Ocean Race, Relay4Nature will involve a baton passing from team to team, shining a spotlight on ocean leaders, innovators, and advocates. Offshore Team Germany will take the baton in Alicante and carry it to Genoa. Annie Lush will be the OTG ambassador for this project.
Relay4Nature is the product of two years of collaborative work between Richard Brisius, Chairman of The Ocean Race and Ambassador Peter Thomson, United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean.
Relay4Nature will connect a global community of ocean advocates, giving them a platform to petition for a new and respectful relationship with nature. They will be encouraged to contribute messages encouraging a commitment to the ocean, highlighting the globally shared responsibility to protect marine ecosystems. The messages will act as a call to action to urge world leaders to unite for stronger ocean governance, based on science and stewardship, for future generations.
The Relay4Nature baton was presented to Ambassador Thomson at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London on 30 April and will continue its journey with participating teams in the Prologue Race and The Ocean Race Europe. The bespoke baton has been created by the visual artist Tania Kovats, whose work focuses on how art can address environmental challenges.
The baton will first pass to the European Commissioner, Virginijus Sinkevičius, in Klaipėda, Lithuania on 7th May 2021. The Commissioner will pass the baton on to the skipper of Ambersail-2, Rokas Milevičius, to begin its passage between teams in Prologue Race, which stops in Gdynia, Poland and Stockholm, Sweden before being part of The Ocean Race Europe, which will start in Lorient, France and visit Portugal and Spain before finishing in Genoa, Italy in mid-June. The baton and its collected messages will then be delivered to COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021.
Relay4Nature will continue during the training, hospitality and racing programmes as teams prepare for the next edition of The Ocean Race, which will start in October 2022. Teams will be encouraged to engage with their key stakeholders, sponsors, host ports and affiliated organisations, contributing messages to Relay4Nature before passing the baton on to the next team.
“Relay4Nature is a great initiative,” said Ambassador Thomson. “The basic concept is to underline the inseparable link between the upcoming biodiversity, environmental and oceans conferences, with particular emphasis on COP26 in Glasgow. It brings all the challenging excitement and endurance of ocean racing to the process of transforming our world to net zero carbon by 2050.”
“The ambition is to ensure connectivity so that whether you are from a biodiversity or climate community, we need to work together to protect the ocean’s wellbeing. Through Relay4Nature, we want to convey this message from conference to conference, to underline we have one common problem, which is the profligacy of our greenhouse gas emissions.”
“A healthy ocean is fundamental to life on Earth. It’s our life support system, producing over half of the planet’s oxygen and providing food for billions of people. The ocean also plays a hugely important role in climate regulation. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, it has absorbed more than 90% of the excess heat caused by human impact. However, despite being the largest habitat on earth and producing some 50% of the world’s biosphere, the ocean still receives far too little attention from world leaders.” He concludes.
Richard Brisius, Chairman of The Ocean Race comments: “By using our sport, we aim to highlight that world leaders must strike a fair deal for people and planet and emphasise that the ocean and climate nexus needs to be at the top of their agenda.”
“Through the messages our teams will collect as they pass on the baton, we are asking world leaders to unite for effective, comprehensive and collaborative global ocean governance, placing nature, human and ocean rights at the centre of policy and action,” he adds.
And this is what Annie says in the interview about the need for sailors to get involved in marine conservation:
What significance does the ocean have for you as a sailor?
I think the ocean for a lot of people is something quite magnificent and mystifying at the same time. Being near it is calming, but sailing on it, especially far from land is something else. The first time I went around the world by boat was when I was 18, I remember realising how small we are! Then sailing through the Southern Ocean on The Ocean Race i remember battling on a tight reach against 50kts in the middle of a hail storm, clothed all the latest Gortex protective gear, struggling just to keep steering the boat straight. Meanwhile an albatross was circling above us, swooping gracefully in front of the forestay, as if to demonstrate to us the power that nature has, and how little we control. It was beautiful (and terrifying in equal measure)!
As a two-time circumnavigation, you have certainly seen a lot of pollution. How sad are you to see how people treat their world?
There is a video clip from my first race with SCA, the OBR points the camera at the water and in every metre square of ocean surface there’s a piece of litter floating. We were sailing up to China from the Middle East. We could have filmed the same thing for weeks, it was really sad to see. We were nowhere near land, yet the ocean was full of rubbish. There’s no doubt we’re doing something wrong, very wrong. When you’re out there you realise the scale of the problem is huge, there won’t be an easy fix. But we need to do everything we can and fundamentally change how we treat the ocean and how we work, before it’s too late.
Have you seen beautiful examples of ocean conservation and saving in the world?
I love reading new stories where a young student or even teenager has come up with a technical solution for helping manage waste, collecting ocean plastic or biodegradable packaging. I think there are a lot of great examples from all around the world of these, from very diverse communities which is the key. There are some great examples too from sailors. Ellen MacArthur is doing incredible work with their Circular Economy campaign. It’s inspirational to see how much she has achieved with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and how much sailing offshore can inspire a whole new way of doing things in life and business.
How do you personally campaign for the preservation of the oceans?
I think it’s important to do whatever you can, reduce plastic consumption where possible and recycle and generally to try to be mindful of waste. I will always try to fix something before throwing it away and especially now with a child, trying to source things 2nd hand and make sure we pass them on afterwards. But to be honest I think the most important element is to educate the next generation, and to make sure there is a fundamental awareness and desire to change how we use the ocean and the planet as a whole.
My passion is working with youth and I teach environmental geography and sustainability subjects in a school near where I live. I am also an ambassador for the 1851 Trust, working in schools to encourage youth to study STEM subjects which we believe is a key part in finding environmental solutions for the future. So I guess I hope my contribution to ocean preservation is really through education.