By Paige Myatt, Program Manager, Sailors for the Sea powered by Oceana

From July 30 to August 6, 2021, the Cleveland Yachting Club in Rocky River, OH hosted the Thistle Nationals 75th Anniversary Regatta and earned Platinum Level Clean Regattas certification. They hosted 96 boats, fed and entertained approximately 400 sailors and guests each night, and had a team of approximately 100 volunteers working enthusiastically to make this a world-class regatta.


The efforts of the Cleveland Yachting Club’s Green Team helped the Thistle Nationals 75th Anniversary Regatta achieve Platinum Level Clean Regattas certification.   © John Yingling

John Yingling and Marylin Hunger were the Clean Regatta organizers for this event. They were supported by fellow Thistle sailors, Cairn Krafft, Mike Ingham, Mary-Pat McNulty, and Danielle Buehler, who were already experienced with the Clean Regattas program. John and Marylin set out to accomplish as many of the 20 Best Practices as they could. They achieved all 20 and did so in many unique ways. We are excited to share our top three highlights from this event.

To achieve Best Practice #5, Award Practical Items or Use a Perpetual or Upcycled Trophy, the Green Team coordinated with Sea Bags for a sail drive. They collected hundreds of sails that will be turned into useful items. In return, Sea Bags provided bags made from recycled sails to be given out as awards.

When we say to Publicize Your Sustainability Efforts (Best Practice #6), we usually expect social media posts, email communications, and the like. The Thistles took this to a new level by posting signs about their Clean Regatta efforts in the bathrooms! This was done in addition to communications via email, YachtScoring, and the Bagpipe, their class magazine.

To Ensure Proper Waste Bin Placement and Signage (Best Practice #11), their Green Team made sure waste stations were clearly and creatively labeled, often with actual examples of what items go in which bin. As anyone who has ever stood at a waste station helping eventgoers sort their trash knows, you can be met with many confused looks, especially in today’s world of “bioplastics” and “compostable” items. For this reason, a Green Team’s job is becoming increasingly important to help keep waste streams free of contamination, and the maximum amount of material diverted from the landfill.

The team coordinated compostable dinnerware and commercial composting services with a local company, Rust Belt Riders, in advance of the event. In theory, to clean up after meals, one would be able to throw most everything into the compost bin. However, Green Team member Trudy Hudson, who jumped in to help during the event noted some challenges worth sharing:

“The compostable cups for the beer didn’t get put out right away, so many people were using #1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic cups, which look very similar to the compostable cups. Plastic is definitely not compostable! Then there were butter wrappers. Butter is an oil, so not the best item for compost. We operated under the general rule, ‘when in doubt, throw it out’ as to not contaminate the recycling or compost bins. There was a lot of planning and effort to have the correct items go into the compost. Every item disposed of properly is one less item that may find its way into our waterways.”

Tory Gibb was another member of the Green Team who was recruited onsite to help with waste management. Trudy and Tory, along with other dedicated members of the Green Team, participated in many “dumpster dives” and adjusted signage to help make the three bins more understandable.

Clean Regatta organizer Marylin Hunger says, “Our hope is that the Thistle Class, each district, each team, and each individual person noticed themselves making a difference and will take this experience with them. Our challenge to all of you is to take it forward and do your part at future regattas, your homes, your neighborhoods.”

The full Sustainability Report for the Thistle 75th National Championship can be found at ■

This Ocean Watch Essay was originally posted on the Sailors for the Sea Powered by Oceana blog, and is reprinted with permission. If you’d like to join the Clean Regattas community, and register your event, visit

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