One of the world’s best sailors has revealed that her pursuit of a gold medal at the Rio Olympics was hampered by the amount of plastic in the water.
Annalise Murphy won silver for Ireland in the 2016 Games but her efforts were hindered by the amount of rubbish in the Brazilian waters when she was competing.
The 27-year-old Olympian from Dublin sets sail from Alicante today on board the yacht ‘Turn the Tide on Plastic’, which has partnered with Sky Ocean Rescue, in the Volvo Ocean Race.
“In Rio there was plastic everywhere in the water, the water was really dirty and full of rubbish,” she told Sky News, as she took part in a pro-am prologue off the coast of Alicante with her 10 team-mates.
“In my second last race I got a plastic bag stuck in my rudder and it cost me three places. The same thing happened to the Finnish girl I was competing against and it cost her 10 places. I was lucky in that I managed to get free and keep going.”
Murphy and the yacht ‘Turn the Tide on Plastic’, skippered by Dee Caffari, will travel 45,000 nautical miles and visit 11 countries over the next eight months as part of the gruelling Volvo race.
The yacht will use on-board data gathering equipment to measure water quality and composition, as well as micro-plastics in some of the world’s remotest oceans.
The team is part of the UN Environment’s ‘Clean Seas’ campaign which aims to better understand the issue of plastic pollution in oceans and inspire people to take action in their day-to-day lives.
Caffari was the first woman to sail solo and non-stop around the world in both directions and has seen first-hand the devastating impact that plastic is having.
“The wildlife can’t distinguish whether the plastic in the water is food or not, so they ingest it and eventually it ends up in the food chain,” she said
“The sea life is dying from eating plastic. For us we look at it from a performance perspective (plastic clogging up sailing equipment), but for the wildlife in our oceans this really is a matter of life and death.”
Volvo has banned single-use plastics at each of the race villages dotted along the route from Spain to Portugal, and on to South Africa, China, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, the United States, Wales, Sweden and the Netherlands.
In each race village, visitors will be shown some of the documentaries that Sky News has made as part of Sky Ocean Rescue.
“I’ve had the best job in the world sailing around the globe and when you come back into a marina or a port after seeing some amazing sights at sea and then be greeted by plastic waste in the water, well that really does churn your guts,” said Nick Bice, from the Volvo Ocean Race.
:: You can find out more about Sky Ocean Rescue and get involved by visiting the campaign’s website.