Rolex-Sponsored SailGP Makes Waves In Sustainable Sailing

From fashion and architecture to travel and haute cuisine, sustainability is a leading watchword. After all, the world is on fire — in some cases literally — and society is more aware than ever that the planet has seen better days. That said, the world of sport and competition remains alive and well, and international organizations such as SailGP are taking their terrestrial impacts incredibly seriously.

For almost 70 years, Rolex has been the committed partner of yachting’s most prestigious races, regattas, clubs and sailors. Rolex has been a loyal partner throughout the decades contributing to the development of the sport and its traditions. When it came to SailGP, Rolex saw the organization’s commitment to the betterment of our planet as an ideal fit, and signed on as the event’s title sponsor from its first season. Through this partnership (much like its many other engagements in yachting), Rolex has helped develop and promote SailGP, enabling them to have a greater impact both inside and outside the sport.

By now, we’ve all encountered varying shades of eco-based marketing, but for SailGP’s sustainability and impact project manager, Rosie Gosling, eco-friendly initiatives are quite literally a full-time job. From ensuring access to biofuels for site generators and calculating the resource burn for transporting fuels across the globe to mapping out the transport logistics of the mobile SailGP event setup, every drop of fuel and watt of power is accounted for. “For transport to qualify for a low carbon qualification according to internationally accepted standard, that means a 10 per cent decrease in carbon emissions. For SailGP, our target is to reduce it by 50 per cent.”

Even SailGP’s relatively recent beginnings — they took to the water for their first race in late 2018 — were significant for their sustainability because the boats used in this global series weren’t actually built for these races. At the end of the America’s Cup 2017 season, the boats built for that competition were due to be retired for an entirely new design and Oracle founder Larry Ellison saw an opportunity. Rather than letting individual teams make adjustments to better their overall performance, as is the practice in Formula One, all of the boats would be owned and maintained by SailGP. And aside from their respective liveries, sponsor branding, and the ability to program certain buttons and controls, the competition’s F50 boats are all identical. The skills, strategy, and planning of each team alone determine the outcome of each race.

three boats in the harbour rolex sailgp

Additionally, and also unlike any other racing series, the organization’s ten teams aren’t just competing on the water. With the introduction of the SailGP Impact League, teams are also fighting to be the most sustainable in all their endeavours. On one end of the score sheet, crews track power usage, fuel consumption, waste, travel, and other “day to day” components of their activities as part of the race tour, aiming to be the most efficient in any way possible. On the other end, teams are asked to develop a program or initiative that improves an aspect of SailGP’s purpose strategy and helps to reduce waste, increase diversity, lower emissions, or develop opportunities for the teams’ female athletes. These projects are required to be innovative or incorporate technology, to foster collaboration, and to be communicated effectively both internally and externally.

SailGP’s objectives echo the Rolex quest for perpetual excellence and the series forms an integral part of the brand’s long-standing relationship with yachting that dates back to the late 1950s. Representing both the present and future of sailing, SailGP prides itself on racing for a better future with purpose at the heart. Technological innovation and supreme athleticism combine with positive agendas in sustainability and inclusivity to deliver the pinnacle of inshore yacht racing.

The Canadian team has devised a number of ingenious and forward-thinking ideas for the Impact League. In 2022, they worked closely to support Oceanwise, a Vancouver-based non-profit organization working to preserve and protect the world’s oceans. To do this, the Canadian team gathered water samples from around the globe to assist in Oceanwise’s monitoring of plastic levels and also helped to facilitate several beach cleanups over the course of the season. For 2023, the team has partnered with WeCANFoil, a country-wide program designed to bring foiling (the above-the-surface sailing technique employed by SailGP’s boats) to youth programs. It’s a worthy cause and one that aims to inspire more young people to engage with the sport on an amateur level.

Back on the global circuit, SailGP’s future also looks bright. There are 10 teams currently on the grid but there is talk of further expansion and the league’s first Canadian race is earmarked for next summer in Halifax. Earlier this year, Rolex renewed its support of the series and is set to remain the presenting sponsor of SailGP for the next decade — a position the brand has proudly held since the formation of the league.

Three Rolex Testimonees participate in SailGP: Sir Ben Ainslie and Hannah Mills for Great Britain SailGP team and tom Slingsby for Australia SailGP team. These elite athletes and the Swiss watchmaker share a perpetual ambition for excellence and superior performance. Established champions, they are athletes whose skill and application have earned them a place at the pinnacle of the sailing.

After a strong start to the season, Team Canada and skipper Phil Robertson are currently chasing their way through the midfield. Running a team stacked with former Olympians certainly helps, but they’ve got some ground to make up, currently standing in 8th place with an 11-point gap to the podium. SailGP is one of those sports where conditions and human error can turn the tides in a hurry, so we’re eager to see where things go. With a home race on the horizon and a competitive Canadian boat in the water, we’re eager to see the size of the crowd when SailGP hits the water in Halifax in June of 2024.