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How to be debris free in the Sydney to Hobart

Can you be debris free when you go yacht racing?  Well of course you can, however the aim of this article to is give you ideas on how to reduce your debris when you go racing or even cruising.

Plastic Bottles

One of the biggest issues when you go sailing is that plastic water bottles tend to breed in your rope bags and at the end of the race, you are finding them days later coming out of every nook and cranny, often half full.  The fact that they are bulky is another issue when you head out on a small boat with a sizeable crew for several days.

We believe that the best option is to ditch the plastic water bottle altogether.  If everyone had their own stainless steel water bottle with a carabiner on it and named, then you can refill the water bottle time and time again and you won’t be consuming plastic.  You can grab bottles from anywhere these days.  We’ve had our supplied by Anaconda and getting something larger than 600mm is a great option.  Try finding ones that are around 1 liter so you don’t have to fill them up as often.  And go with ones that have a single hand operated lid.  Screw lids are no good when sailing so sports lids of flip up nozzles are great.

In an ideal world you can fill it from the on board tanks, however if you don’t have tanks on board, or the taste is bad, then consider cask water.  Just like wine, there is an option to buy it in a box with the cask/bladder of water inside.  Remove the cardboard before you put it on board and the bags fit in all sorts of places.  Store them in the bilge and they sit flat, lowering your center of gravity more than bottles would.  You can get them in 10 liter versions from your supermarket and they are very affordable.  The best thing for the Sydney to Hobart is that whilst NSW has a container deposit scheme, Tasmania hasn’t, well not yet.  So the containers are not of any value to Tasmania.  So please consider cask water this summer if you aren’t using your tanks.  It also complies with the emergency water rations as per the Notice of Race.  When you’re finished, you can recycle the outlet by cutting it off and putting in the yellow bins.  Only the clear plastic bladders can be recycled, the metal ones unfortunately can’t.

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Aluminium Cans

Many people believe you can tear an aluminium can open and it will disintegrate in the ocean in no time.  Well Aluminium usually would, however it is a little known fact that all aluminium cans have a plastic lining in them.  That is why your beer and soft drink doesn’t eat into the cans.  So throwing them overboard is actually breaking the law, let alone Rule 55.  The best thing with aluminium cans is to bring them back to the land and recycle them where that layer is burnt off in controlled circumstances.  You can read a former article I wrote at http://oceancrusaders.org/aluminium-cans/


Coffee is an essential ingredient for the race, but also before and after.  Please BYO reusable coffee cup or insulated mug.  Don’t line up for ages trying to get a coffee, make your own on your boat.  Coffee cups may me recyclable but they are not easily recycled and the lids are often plastic.  It’s also cheaper to BYO.

Food packaging

Getting packaged food is a major task for an offshore race.  This is where things become a little bit harder.  However with a bit of prior preparation you can go debris free, or at least single use plastic free.  Cereals can be bought at health food shops and if you take your own containers you can fill them straight out of the dispensers.  In Brisbane we use Grandma’s Pantry for this.  We can get all our ingredients out of dispensers and hence no packaging.  You can even get your lollies there to keep the crew energized all race.  Or go to Ikea, they too have lollies out of dispensers.

For main meals a lot of people like to make pastas and rice dishes and put them in foil dishes with cardboard tops.  This is a great option as you don’t want to be heating anything in plastic containers and glass is not a good option either on a moving craft.  Be sure that when you are choosing your dishes,  that you are choosing ones with cardboard tops that don’t contain plastic as then there is the option to recycle them at the end.  Same goes with the foil trays, please don’t throw them overboard, bring them back for recycling.  A foil tray takes up to 50 years to actually fall apart in the ocean.

Tinned food is another option that many take.  Whilst heavy the tins are easily recycled.  Again these have a plastic lining so please don’t throw them overboard.  They will take 50 years to break apart due to the plastics in them, and the plastic component will never disappear.

Flat packed dehydrated food is the most simple option for any boat.  Just heat water, add to packet, wait and eat.  Just have a look at the options available as the packaging varies between them all.  Get larger containers rather than single dishes as the least amount of debris you can use the better.

Reusable utensils

Please refrain from single use plastic utensils.  Whilst it means no cleaning up, they are a real blight on our environment.  Get a set of bamboo utensils.  Try a spork which is essentially a spoon and fork in one and is often the only utensil you will need.  Being bamboo they are really light too.

Don’t forget your toothbrush

Everyone chops the handle off their toothbrush to save weight but that means throwing away plastic that hasn’t even been used.  Go bamboo, they are lighter and far superior for the environment.

The challenge

We challenge every crew to do everything they can to make a difference.  As a team that is constantly out cleaning waterways across Australia, cleaning your playground, we really want you to take this challenge.  And to be honest Tasmania doesn’t need our trash.  With 163 competing yachts, that’s a lot of people heading south.  Don’t be that yacht that doesn’t care.

I was stoked on Saturday morning when I saw one of the classic yachts competing in the classic yacht race criticise one of their own crew for using a single use coffee cup.  They weren’t going to let him on board.  So bring your own coffee cup and let’s not add to the amount of waste around the race villages.

Our ocean deserves us to do better.  We can’t keep treating it like we are.  Ocean Crusaders have removed 75 tonnes of debris from waterways across Australia this year.  We are just one of the many crews that clean so we beg you to make a difference this summer.

Our motto that will blazoned across our sails on board Ocean Crusaders Dodgeball on December 26th is ‘A Clean Ocean Makes us all Winners’ 

And don’t forget to join us in Tasmania at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania on Sunday 5th January for the Derwent River Clean Up.  It’s looking like a fantastic event.  More details can be found at www.OceanCrusaders.org/S2H

Ocean Crusaders Sydney to Hobart Clean Up campaign is proudly supported by Sunsail, Musto, Spinlock, Yaffa Publishing, Mysailing.com.au, Timezero Navigation, Predictwind & Boatnames Australia