Mike Golding OBE, one of the world’s most accomplished and successful offshore sailors announced as Patron of The Green Blue.
In the first of our two part interview with Mike Golding OBE and now Patron of The Green Blue, we catch up with Mike to find out how and why he originally became involved with sustainable boating and what motivates him to continue…
We still can’t quite believe it has been 15 years since you became The Green Blue’s Ambassador and helped launch the programme back in 2005 at the Southampton Boat Show. Can you tell us what initially attracted you towards the Ambassador role?
In 2005, I signed a second 4-year partnership with Ecover – the Belgium based ecological cleaning company. The sponsorship embraced the positive green qualities of the sport of sailing and the ecological value set of Ecover. Our strapline “Powered by Nature” embodied the relationship.
The opportunity to become the first ambassador for the RYA’s The Green Blue programme was therefore very timely. It gave me, and other sailors, the impetus to adopt green principles; adapt our practices and protect our sporting environment. Like you, I also can’t quite believe it’s been going for 15 years now!
How did your passion for making boating more sustainable first come to light for you and when did you discover the environmental challenges facing our oceans?
My earliest offshore sailing, aged 18, was alongside a crew of progressive thinkers who cared, and knew, far more than me about sustainability and the environment. As part of a west going circumnavigation, we were cruising west through the Strait of Magellan on the southern tip of South America. These Straits are one of the most untouched wilderness areas on the planet but, as we first entered the channels, we were confronted by some horrifying evidence of reckless environmental damage caused by early oil exploration in the region. Looking back, I believe this shaped my early thinking about our environment.
Our 12-year partnership with Ecover also taught me a great deal. I was always impressed by their Belgium factory, manufacturing ecological cleaning products – taking pride in putting cleaner water back into the system than it took from the mains!
I understand each of us has an impact on the environment we live in, by improving our knowledge we learn to adopt simple changes that improve, reduce, or even enhance our individual footprint. Gradually, I believe we are beginning to understand that every single one of us has a part in ensuring our sustainable future.
Since you have become more environmentally aware, how do you feel this has affected your view/relationship with the ocean and sailing?
I love sailing and enjoy the fact that at its most basic level sailing harnesses the power of nature. Unfortunately, it is also the case that the sport requires a significant amount of equipment that is, currently, very far from being the most environmentally sensitive.
Sailing has exposed me to the beauty of the vast, apparently undamaged areas of the Southern Ocean, however, I have also witnessed the direct effect of pollution and global climate change.
My first recollections of “weather routing” relied on Admiralty Routing Charts which contained data that was frequently many hundreds of years old. We used these charts together with decades of observed Met data to create statistically fast racing routes. As time has passed, the weather has become less reliable. When we first noticed the problem, we reduced our sampling period from 100 years, to 10, then 5 and now – today we rely almost exclusively on the most recent iterations of global weather models which show little similarity to those original historical data observations. We all know it; the weather is changing and today it’s changing at an ever faster rate.
Sailors in particular, derive a unique perspective of the natural environment and so, are well placed to communicate the real and present effects of climate change to a wider audience.
Have you made any eco conscious adaptations to your sailing habits / equipment that you would recommend to other boaters?
I would always encourage people to embrace technologies that improve efficiency and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Strangely, it was our pursuit of performance gains on long events like the Vendée Globe that drove us towards new more efficent batteries, solar panels and hydro generators. Today it’s possible to run a race boat fully off the grid and without the vast fuel loads we once carried and used.
Sometimes the simplest things are just as effective. We have always victualed and packed carefully to save weight – but today we have that down to a fine art. Of course, nothing is ditched at sea but the packaging and waste we bring ashore is tiny compared to the huge black sacks of rubbish we used to bring ashore during our Challenge Race days.
You can read part two of our interview with Mike Golding OBE here.
If you’re feeling inspired to make some changes to your boating, then don’t forget to check out the Information and Advice pages.