Foundation⁰ and Sail Team BCN: Shaping the future of sustainable sailing

By Callum Booth
Callum Booth

Foundation⁰ and Sail Team BCN have partnered with the aim of bringing sustainability and diversity to the forefront of yacht racing.

Teaming up ahead of the 37th America’s Cup in Barcelona, Foundation⁰ has sponsored Sail Team BCN’s mission to compete in the Women’s and Youth divisions of the competition — yet the connection between these two groups goes much deeper than a race.

This partnership is about the future, of pushing the boundaries of sailing and putting sustainability measures in place that can materially impact the industry for decades to come.

In this piece, we’ll explore the relationship between Foundation⁰ and Sail Team BCN, how they are advancing the sector, and what the future holds for the pair.

The America’s Cup and Sail Team BCN

The America’s Cup is steeped in history. Founded in 1851, it’s still going strong today, with the 37th edition set to take place later this year. The America’s Cup is the oldest international competition in any sport and it continues to attract the best sailors in the world to compete against each other over the course of several weeks.

In 2024, Sail Team BCN will enter this world. The group was put together to compete in the new races of the America’s Cup: the Women’s and Youth competitions.

Sail Team BCN itself was spearheaded by Guillermo Altadill, a former Spanish Olympic sailor, and Stewart Hosford, an international team manager. Their aim was simple: to create a team that can challenge for honours.

This is easier said than done though. To get there, they needed to put together a fully formed team in Barcelona — including recruiting talented youth and female sailors from across Spain — purchase two AC40 race boats, and build a base. All that before they can even begin to think about racing.

For this mission to be a success, Sail Team BCN needed partners, and this is where Foundation⁰ comes in.

Credits: Sail Team BCN, photo by Jorge Andreu

A partnership for change

The rich heritage of the America’s Cup was a key reason behind Foundation⁰’s involvement. After all, to change the future, we need to pay heed to the past — and to craft the future, we need to make changes in the present.

This is why the introduction of the Women’s and Youth divisions was an ideal opportunity for Foundation⁰ and Sail Team BCN to get involved. Here was the oldest international competition in the world expanding, evolving, and changing with the times. This made it an ideal event to showcase the future of sailing itself.

The first conversations between Foundation⁰ and Sail Team BCN happened at the end of 2022, with the two discussing a range of topics, including sustainability, renewable energy, and how — excuse the pun — to make a splash.

These discussions transformed and became more concrete during the start of 2023. Here, the two worked together to turn the discussion into a series of actionable points and laid out the team’s strategy for the buildup to the 2024 America’s Cup.

Foundation⁰ isn’t simply there to assist with the base, talent pathway, and the AC40’s, instead its goal is to try and change the racing yacht world. Specifically, to do all it can to make Sail Team BCN the most sustainable group of its kind.

This partnership isn’t just about winning races and engaging in competitions, instead it’s about shaping the sport’s future and improving the health of our oceans. Foundation⁰ believes that there’s huge potential to use renewable energy in competitive sailing — and together with Sail Team BCN, they will push boundaries and become a marker for all sailing groups going forward.

The pillars of sustainability

To get there though, there needs to be a plan and guiding principles. Becoming a sustainable sailing team doesn’t just happen overnight.

The approach was settled on during the strategic talks in 2023. The two teams narrowed down the specific areas they wanted to concentrate on during their partnership, which resulted in a list of five focus areas:

  • Diversity
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Water
  • Waste

Importantly, these are a mix of both sustainable and social initiatives, as these two elements are deeply intertwined, and one can’t be fully achieved without the other.

Sustainable development goals

Once the pillars were decided the next step was just as important: ensuring each had concrete actions and timeframes attached. In other words, everything Foundation⁰ and Sail Team BCN want to do should be both achievable, manageable, and measurable.

There’s no point in promising the world and delivering a pebble, after all.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the sustainability actions Foundation⁰ and Sail Team BCN will be focusing on ahead of the 2024 America’s Cup.

Waving goodbye to waste

The initiatives and goals outlined under the five pillars vary from the simple to the complex, but, to begin with, we’ll focus on the former.

A key goal of the Foundation⁰ and Sail Team BCN partnership is reducing plastic use. This means removing it from both the training environment and the event itself. There have been a variety of schemes introduced to assist this transition.

One way is ensuring people have their own containers to eat and drink with, stopping the use of single-use plastic each and every day. Another is the fact recycling bins have been and will be installed at all Sail Team BCN locations. On top of this, all the clothes the team wear should come from sustainable materials and sources.

On the surface, these are not seismic shifts, but in many ways that is the entire point. These are examples of small changes that, grouped together, can have a huge impact over time.

When it comes to reducing emissions and waste, thinking big and acting small is a great place to start.

Opening doors for everyone

As discussed, the partnership between Foundation⁰ and Sail Team BCN is not only about sustainability, there is a huge social aspect to the project too — and one way this is shown is the focus on women’s and youth sailing.

It is important for the yachting and racing industries as a whole to be more inclusive. Although women make up roughly 50% of the population, they are underrepresented in most professional sports — and sailing is no exception. The upcoming Women’s division in the America’s Cup is an ideal opportunity to try and redress this balance, and make the sailing world more equal along the way.

Credits: Sail Team BCN, photo by Jorge Andreu

On top of this, the youth focus of the project is not only about giving young people opportunities now, but also about shaping the future of the racing industry and giving people from different backgrounds the chance to get involved.

When the project is fully underway and a proper Barcelona base is opened (more on that shortly), the team will open its doors to local schools and education institutions in order to further spread the word of sailing. That doesn’t mean the team is resting on its laurels in the meantime though. While the base is being built, members are already talking at schools, on the radio and TV about the importance of sailing and sports, spreading its inclusive message far and wide.

This is a key part of the partnership between Foundation⁰ and Sail Team BCN: ensuring more people than ever can get on the water and start sailing.

Simulation city

Yet if there is going to be a sustainable future in racing, the key may just be getting off the water. We’ve already discussed the micro changes that can make sailing greener, but there need to be some bigger initiatives too.

One element that Foundation⁰ and Sail Team BCN are embracing for the America’s Cup is using a training simulator.

Each time a training session happens in the water it releases a huge amount of emissions. The most obvious pollutant is the fuel that the vessel uses, but it goes far deeper than that.

To launch a yacht onto the water and practise a race requires around 15 people. They are needed to set up the boat, to prepare it, to monitor what’s going on during sailing, to control the other vessels alongside the racing yacht, and much, much more. Many of them have to travel to the port from where they live too, once again increasing emissions.

Thankfully there’s a more modern and elegant solution: using a simulator.

This machine the team trains on is a precise replica of the AC40 cockpit, the same vessel that will be used during the America’s Cup. Connected to a screen, sailors use this to practise races without needing to get out onto the water. Even more impressive, the technology is now so advanced the team can pull specific weather data on precise days, meaning they can test out the conditions around Barcelona they may have to sail in.

Another exciting development of this sort of training is that Sail Team BCN can connect and race against other competitors. This not only gives a sense of camaraderie to the women and youth teams, but also allows them all to share data and learnings together — a key aspect of the Foundation⁰ ethos.

Building a base for everyone

One of the core principles of Foundation⁰ is sharing knowledge. Yes, the team is looking to make sailing more sustainable, but it understands that this can only be wholly achieved if everyone benefits.

This is why all of the organisation’s research is open source, shared with the world so all can take advantage of what it has learned.

The partnership between Foundation⁰ and Sail Team BCN is no different — which is why the pair are building a zero-emission base for the team to work out of during the event that will be completely open source: the Foundation⁰ Power Hub.

This is a 20-foot, remodelled freight container that will use renewable energy to power every aspect of Sail Team BCN’s home. It has been designed taking advantage of all the technical innovations gained during the development of Project Zero, the organisation’s fossil-free sailboat.

The systems inside the Foundation⁰ Power Hub will provide air cooling, electricity, and hot water to the base. It will achieve this through a variety of methods, including advanced insulation, solar power, collecting rain, and desalinating seawater. The Foundation⁰ Power Hub can also be easily moved around, depending on where it’s needed

In the long run, this means that any sailing group — or, indeed, anyone who wants to have a similar self-contained power setup or apply sustainability practices to different systems — can benefit from the initiative.

A glimpse into a sustainable future

Of course, there is still a long way to go until the America’s Cup, which begins in the middle of August. This means there is much work to be done. We’ve only highlighted a few of the projects and actions resulting from the partnership here — rest assured, there’s a lot more to be completed before the summer.

Arguably the biggest of these is creating the Barcelona base and launching the Foundation⁰ Power Hub, both of which are planned to be completed at the end of Spring.

Aside from the technical aspects and hitting goals across five pillars, Sail Team BCN will be preparing for the America’s Cup and ensuring their athletes have everything they need to thrive and succeed.

But once the race is over? Well, that will be all about learning. What worked? What did not? What can be improved and how?

These are all essential questions that need to be answered if the sailing industry is going to become more sustainable and thrive far into the future. The most exciting aspect though is this is just the start.

If feasible, Foundation⁰ and Sail Team BCN want to keep their connection to the America’s Cup in the coming years, competing regularly and trying to make the Women’s and Youth divisions as prestigious as the Men’s.

Beyond that, this competition and partnership is proving a point: that sailing can change. That the sector can be more sustainable — and those learnings can become something the entire world will benefit from.


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