Giving old race sails a new life for the planet
With our global reach, Oceanum Vela strives to make positive moves toward keeping our oceans thriving. We collect Ocean Race Sails that have been around the planet and give them a new life for the planet (#aroundtheplanetfortheplanet).
Here in the U.S., the Clean Water Act has made tremendous progress since 1972 in keeping our waterways and our playground clean and safe to play in. However, the looming threat of plastic waste pollution is profound. We at Oceanum Vela are on a mission to help tackle a waste problem within our sailing community as well as give back to effective organizations that are helping to tackle waste turned marine debris and carbon emissions to our atmosphere.
Less than 10% of all sail material is recycled, where these sails’ new lives mostly fall into becoming lifestyle goods. Having a sufficient supply of old sails has not been a problem for Oceanum Vela — it collected approximately five tons of sail material since beginning operations in late 2018.
“Rethinking the future: It is a profound challenge … to rethink and redesign how we produce and consume; to reshape how we live and work, or even to imagine the jobs that will be needed for transition.” – Dame Ellen MacArthur, sailor and circular economist
Ellen MacArthur’s challenge became the focus of the vision at Oceanum Vela when founded in 2019 by Melissa Kalicin. As a sailor and sustainability professional, her research inspired her to expand on steps already taken by major race organizations, foundations and businesses dedicated to helping sailors protect the health of their ocean playgrounds.
Compelled to join the effort, Oceanum Vela was founded to repurpose elite race sails into useful sought-after products for sailors and enthusiasts. By partnering with global industry leaders – sailmakers, race syndicates, businesses and individuals – we have worked to build supply chain, manufacturing capacity and marketing channels. With our success measured not only by business goals but also by our commitment to help our industry support sustainability, we’re contributing to the health of the watery world we all cherish.
Though based in New England, OV has truly gone global with their first project involving upcycling the sails from the former Volvo Ocean 70 Ericsson 3 from the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09. Finding the sails in an Italian sail loft, OV partnered with Jean-Martin Grisar, one of the original sailmakers from the Ericsson campaign. “Ten years ago, I had these sails in my hands when they were new,” said Grisar, owner of JM Sail and Bags in Rimini. “I am very excited to work with them again, turning them into stylish bags and accessories fulfilling a mission of sustainability doing something positive to preserve our oceans.”
One of OV’s most prized collaborations is working with the Australian-based, mission-driven ladies helming a collaboration that commands global climate action. In early 2022, Australian adventure sailor and climate activist Lisa Blair cast off her lines to finish what she had started, establishing a record for sailing solo, non-stop and unassisted around Antarctica. Prior to her departure, we released a unique collection of sailing accessories made exclusively from authentic race sails used on Blair’s previous record-breaking campaigns aboard her high-performance yacht Climate Action NOW. The products are designed and handcrafted by NautiBags of Brisbane, Australia, founded by Volvo Ocean Race veteran Stacey Jackson.
The collaboration shares a mission of inspiring positive environmental change while gathering valuable ocean health data and micro plastic samples. Blair’s campaign aims to educate and inspire individuals and businesses to take positive steps towards our collective future and business practices that promote a circular economy. Proceeds from the sale of the products are used by Blair’s Climate Action NOW organization to support ocean and climate health education.
Locally, OV has collected some of the most brilliant sails with pedigree, from 1st and 2nd place winners in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-‘12, Groupama 4 and Camper, and 3rd place finisher in VOR 2008-‘09 PUMA il mostro. Now based on the East Coast as Wizard, Warrior, and il mostro, these boats are still competing in ocean races under private campaigns. These sails’ respective bags and accessories make for some of the most sought after, beautifully and creatively designed nautical fashion out there!
This spring, OV is thrilled to be partnering with Save the Sound, an organization focused on natural ecological restoration to help alleviate storm events and their clean water and climate initiatives. We’ll be at the CT Spring Boat Show at Safe Harbor Essex Island in Essex, CT the weekend of April 28-30, and will be donating a percent of all proceeds from sales to support these projects.
With the abundance of raw materials out there ready to be repurposed, there’s an edge to having products made from old sails versus recycled materials because no having to undergo a chemical recycling process reduces carbon emission. Every person should have bags made from an old sail, as we’re striving to help alleviate the demand for virgin materials when a sail can simply be repurposed.
OV’s product lines include bags and gear (duffles, totes, ditties, purses and pouches), home decor (drapes, shower curtains, pillows, star garland and holiday decor) and accessories (golf head covers). They’re available at oceanumvela.net, as well as Trendy Tides on Main Street in Annapolis, MD and Definitely Wendy in Westboro, MA. ■