Greta Thunberg and Her Zero-Emission Sail

The Swedish teenager and a Monaco Royal team up to take a zero-emission transatlantic sail.

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl and environmental activist, was eager to attend the UN Climate Action Summit hosted by UN Secretary General António Guterres in New York City on September 23rd. However, there was a bit of a sticking point. Thunberg is fiercely principled about living a life that is as carbon neutral as possible. To that end, she chooses not to fly, on account of the excessive greenhouse gas emissions from planes. A solution to her dilemma presented itself in an unlikely liaison and an extraordinary scenario: Pierre Casiraghi, son of Princess Caroline of Monaco and grandson of Prince Rainier II and Grace Kelly, offered Thunberg a lift across the Atlantic in his carbon-neutral racing sailboat.

Casiraghi, a Monaco businessman and vice president of the Yacht Club of Monaco, is a passionate racing sailor. He owns the 60-foot Malizia II, an IMOCA 60 (International Monohull Open Class Association) sailboat that will be competing later this year in the Transat Jacques Vabre, a double-handed race from France to Brazil, as well as in the single-handed 2020 Vendée Globe. Malizia II is a bare-bones yacht designed for speed, not comfort. An ocean conservation advocate, Casiraghi recently outfitted Malizia II to be carbon neutral. Malizia is equipped with a state-of-the-art solar system of 1.3kW and two hydro-generators, which are permanently installed on the stern of the boat. The Malizia II Ocean Challenge comprises three main pillars: sailing, science and education. “We are probably one of the few boats in the world that is totally zero fossil fuel,” says Casiraghi. Aware of Thunberg’s mission to create awareness and solutions to the climate change crisis, he heard about her desire to cross the Atlantic in an emission-free manner and reached out to offer her a ride.

In August 2018, Greta Thunberg initiated a secondary school strike for climate change that took place outside the Swedish Parliament. Her initiative has spread all over the world and currently involves hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren, as well as others. The movement was dubbed Fridays For Future. Thunberg has since spoken at climate rallies not only in Stockholm, but also in world capitals such as Brussels, London and Helsinki. Last January, she was invited to speak at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. She also gave a rousing TED talk. Thunberg has garnered such a large mass movement, that she has been nominated for the French Prix Liberté ( Freedom Prize) as well as the Nobel Peace prize.

Thunberg had no sailing experience prior to the transatlantic trip. Accompanying her were her father, Svante Thunberg, and filmmaker Nathan Grossman. Casiraghi says everyone did very well during the often challenging Atlantic crossing. He and his sailing partner Boris Herrmann handled the navigation of the vessel, alternately sharing one sleeping bunk while Thunberg, her father and the cameraman occupied the other three bunks. The boat is truly bare bones; there is no fixed toilet aboard, no shower, and meals consisted of freeze-dried packages—astronaut-style fare. For Thunberg, the packages were all of the vegan variety.

The group experienced complex weather conditions with winds up to 30 knots, several cold fronts and rough seas in the Gulf Stream with troughs that were several meters deep. The boat averaged 11.2 knots for the 3,711-nautical mile trip, which was completed in 13 days and 18 hours from Plymouth via the Lizard on the Cornish coast to the Ambrose lighthouse in Lower New York Bay. Upon arrival, in keeping with the eco dictate, the sailboat was met by Torqeedo-powered electric boats to assist and escort the 60-foot sailboat to its final berth at North Cove Marina in lower Manhattan. As young Greta has said in her interviews and talks, global warming is about science not politics, we have a long way to go, but every small step helps.; #fridaysforfuture; #ClimateStrike

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