Sail Renaissense

by Lucy Gilliam

It’s been a long time since I have written on this page and a lot has happened in that time. But I’m inspired to get back into this story after receiving a message from our guide from the Angostura factory in Trinidad who thanked me for the stories!

The decompression after an intense 6 months away has been more challenging than I would have expected and it has been tricky charting the new territories of no income and plotting next steps. But finally I think the mists of doubt are lifting and the light of the stars reappearing. I read a quote a few days ago that said “don’t plot your way by the lights of the passing ships, but set your course by the stars”. I’ve dusted off my sextant, opened up the charts and got my diary out. I’m back in business! Question is what next?

Well turns out I’ve had a rather epic week last week whereby I took the bold step of travelling to the launch of a sustainable shipping conference to explore the realities of Sail cargo. Without really much idea of the people involved or the outcome I travelled for 10 hours across Europe by train to investigate (yeah have I told you I love trains to!).

Along the route I was joined by Gavin Allwright from Greenheart Project. Greenheart are in the final throws of their very first crowdfunding campaign to build their first prototype sail cargo ship destined to transform island communities in the pacific. This is a great project on many levels. I really like the open source collaborative model of design and the fact that the basic design can be customised to a range of different purposes from cargo to fishing to environmental monitoring. The ships could also make great disaster relief ships imprtant in a rapidly changing world!

I finally arrived in the misty hinterlands of Fryslân which is surrounded by water, below sea level and surrounded by dykes to keep the seas at bay. I was instantly blown away by the tranquil beauty of this land in twilight as the sun set casting over pink rippled skies. Dozens of paddlebarges and folk boats dotted the waterside. In a moment I considered ditching London to move here to potter and paint before remembering my mission.

Not long after Jorne and Arjen from Tres Hombres arrived. Quickly they introduced me to the project team and I explained my unexpected presence at the meeting, my adventures and visions of sail freight. I rather boldly challenged the organisers on whether they believed they could change the world.

The following morning I arrived for the opening of the meeting and quickly approached by the organisers. A presenter had dropped out and they wondered if I would consider presenting my vision. ‘Hell yes’ I replied! No time like the present.

The meeting was opened by Dutch Olympic Sailor and Silver medal winner Marit Bouwmeester, a Laser Radial racer (Class of boat). She gave a brief account of her days racing in Weymouth. A little bit of trivial gossip is that Marit is dating Ben Ainslie from Olympic Team GB. Ben stormed into the record books when he became the first person to win 5 medals in sailing across 5 separate Olympics.

There were a range of presenters from the NGO North Sea Foundation which aims to promote sustainable management of the North sea and promote interdisciplinary understanding of the marine environment. They play a key role in tracking and coordinating EU level actions relating to the marine environment. An overview of the significant range of pollutants and emissions from shipping. While shipping is ‘efficient’ by per tonne transported it still forms a significant proportion of global pollutions as it burns the heaviest and most toxic of fuels. Currently shipping is not included in the EU emissions trading scheme. Shipping and aviation were purposely prevented from being included in the United Nations negotiations on emissions reductions as it is difficult to apportion the origin of emissions to particular nations. The EU recently launched a consultation on creation of a shipping emission trading scheme which could go someway to driving innovations in clean tech for ships.

The naval architects from the dutch firm Dykstra (who designed Rainbow warrior 3!) presented their designs for sail propelled ships and their work on alternative propulsion mechanisms. A range of renewable and hybrid technologies were presented that could significantly reduce the fuel bills and pollution emissions of shipping, along with policy and economic challenges in bringing sail freight to market. Gavin from Greenheart also presented his visions for small sail cargo ships for the developing world and an overview of the current range of sail cargo designs while Jorne gave the final rallying cry that we all act together now to build these incredible designs. The oil is running out, the environmental problems increasing and there is not time for waste. You can find details of the aims and objectives here.

Certainly at the end of my stay the process of sharing my dreams and hearing the aspirations of others across 7 EU countries has painted a far clearer picture in my mind of what the future could look like. And what about my presentation you might ask? Well after months of fermenting, reflecting, networking and pondering I leapt at the chance to test out the concept of New Dawn Traders on a professional audience. I got loads of great feedback and literally can’t wait to share ideas with my ship mates now I’m back home…. Time will tell. But I predict the Sail Renaissence!

“When the wind of change blows some build walls while others set their sails”

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