A unique partnership, which combines a gruelling sporting challenge with vital environmental research, has been shortlisted for a national award.
GB Row Challenge is an annual event that pushes rowers to their physical and mental limits as they circumnavigate Great Britain.
But the challenge isn’t just about ocean rowing. It has a powerful sustainable purpose: the rowers collaborate with scientists from the University of Portsmouth to collect data on microplastics, temperature, noise pollution, and biodiversity.
The partnership has been shortlisted in the ‘Sustainable Partnership of the Year’ category at the British Association of Sustainable Sport (BASIS) awards.
GB Row Challenge founder, William de Laszlo, said: “We believe that sport and sustainability can go hand in hand and are thrilled that this innovative partnership has been recognised.
“It’s exciting to work with the University of Portsmouth to not only push the boundaries of human endurance, but also enable groundbreaking, comprehensive research into water quality and pollution levels around the coast of the UK.
“We hope this partnership will inspire other athletes to consider how they can bring a sustainable purpose into their sports and challenge events.”
Throughout the 2,000 mile rowing challenge, samples of microplastics, environmental DNA (eDNA), temperature, noise and salinity are gathered by rowers via a range of sensors and equipment attached to their boats.
These samples are then analysed by researchers at the University of Portsmouth, forming a comprehensive picture of pollution levels and marine life around the UK. The research aims to shape interventions and solutions that protect the precious marine environment and its wildlife.
In 2022, the data collected by rowers revealed startling insights, including microplastic pollution levels up to 100 times worse than previously recorded. Additionally, the presence of a shrimp species not commonly found in northern waters raised concerns about climate change and warming seas.
Professor of Environmental Pollution, Fay Couceiro, said: “What makes this partnership truly unique is its continuity. Each year, the data collected builds upon the previous year's report, significantly enhancing our understanding of the UK's coastal waters.”
Winners will be announced at an event at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon on 7th November 2023.
Image shows Team Ithaca, the rowing team who completed GB Row Challenge in 2023