British Sailing Team athlete John Gimson believes the maritime industry is destined to decarbonise after he and partner Anna Burnet championed sustainable travel while breaking the record for the fastest crossing of the Irish Sea by a sailing craft.
Gimson and Burnet took to the Irish Sea on their Nacra 17 on Tuesday (26 September) with the aim of raising awareness of the climate crisis and the problems of environmental degradation in maritime travel, hoping to issue a wake-up call to the industry.
They set themselves the challenge of breaking the world record for sailing from Belfast Ballyholme to Port Patrick and back – accompanied by the Artemis eFoiler, a state-of-the-art transport vessel that foils and is electric.
Overcoming difficult conditions, the pair managed to comfortably beat the record by seven minutes, returning to Belfast Stranraer just over 90 minutes after their departure.
The Team GB sailors, who took home silver from Tokyo 2020, have earned their fair share of plaudits for the feat but this was much more than a record-breaking exercise.
The pair, who are partners on and off the water, are striving to bring about change in the maritime industry, hoping to decarbonise a sector that currently accounts for about 2.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
“There's obviously the carbon issue,” Gimson said. “I think for people who live in those areas, particularly, I'm sure there's a lot of health issues within the populations from the fumes of ferries and boats, particularly when the winds blowing into the harbour. Any impact we can make on that will be great.”
“We were absolutely shattered when we finished it [the challenge], but very relieved.”
While recognising the need to push their limits so to truly garner attention and raise awareness for their cause, Burnet admitted to a similar feeling of relief after a physically taxing voyage.
Burnet said: “The main reason for us was really to raise awareness of the need to make the marine industry a greener place.
“In order to raise awareness, we wanted to do something that was going to be a challenge and that would garner some attention. We’re pretty relieved. It was challenging with the conditions, at times a little scary.”
Artemis, headed by two-time Olympic champion Iain Percy, have been supporting their campaign, providing the innovative electric vessel used for the voyage.
Aided by the fact Percy is also Gimson and Burnet’s coach, Burnet hailed the relationship built between the pair and the company.
She added: “We've got great relationships with them, they're helping us a lot. And they're all really good people.
“Their company is really growing so fast. What they're on to with this technology is going to be huge. Foiling technology is the future of maritime travel.
“It was pretty special for us to come here, to do the challenge with them, and also just see what they've got here.”