Expedition Zero - Building the World's First Net Zero Adventure Sailing Yacht

Building a Sustainable Future for Adventure Sailing: An Interview with the Founder of Expedition Zero and Wavysail

Join us, as we dive into Andrew Cowen’s journey of building the world’s first-ever net-zero adventure sailing yacht.

As the global focus on sustainability intensifies, the adventure sailing industry is grappling with profound environmental challenges. From high CO2 emissions to the use of non-recyclable materials, the environmental footprint of adventure sailing has long been overlooked. Today, we sat down with one of adventuro’s closest partners, Andrew Cowen, one of the founders of Expedition Zero and Wavysail, two pioneering businesses that are not only addressing these issues but also leading the way in transforming the industry. Through innovative design and a groundbreaking approach to sustainability, they are charting a course towards a greener future for adventure tourism. Join us as we delve into their journey, challenges, and the revolutionary solutions they are bringing to the world of adventure sailing.

Want to join the crew and sail the North West Passage? Click here!

Interview with Andrew Cowen, Founder of Expedition Zero & Wavysail

Q: Could you start by introducing yourself and what you do?

A: Absolutely! I’m Andrew, one of the founders of Expedition Zero and Wavysail. Expedition Zero is a new business we created to build the world’s first truly net-zero fleet of adventure sailing yachts. This initiative is crucial because the adventure tourism industry, particularly adventure sailing, is growing massively. It’s currently expanding at more than 35% a year and is already a multi-billion-dollar industry. However, the environmental impact of sailing yachts is significant, and no one has addressed this adequately until now.

Q: Could you give us a quick overview of Expedition Zero and its mission?

A: Of course. Expedition Zero aims to design and build adventure sailing yachts that are fully fossil fuel-free and have a net-zero environmental impact. These yachts are built from brand new materials that we have proprietary access to, which are also fully recyclable. This not only minimises the operational environmental footprint but also addresses the issue of yacht disposal at the end of their lifecycle.

Q: What about Wavysail? How does it fit into this picture?

A: Wavysail is our award-winning adventure sailing business and the UK’s best adventure sailing operator. Through our experience with Wavysail, we recognised the significant environmental impact of adventure sailing, which many people, including customers, are unaware of. For instance, the CO2 emissions for a 10-day sailing trip are over a tonne, comparable to a family car’s annual emissions. This high footprint is primarily due to the reliance on diesel engines and the use of non-recyclable materials like fibreglass and carbon fibre in yacht construction.

The Expedition Zero team celebrating the launch of the world's first even net-zero yacht.
Andrew (left) with the Expedition Zero team

Q: Can you elaborate on the environmental impact of adventure sailing?

A: Certainly. The adventure sailing sector has a surprisingly high environmental footprint. For example, during a typical 10-day sailing trip, a yacht can burn through about 200 litres of diesel, resulting in significant CO2 emissions. Additionally, the materials used in building these yachts, such as fibreglass and carbon fibre, are not recyclable and have a high chemical load. There are currently 24,000 abandoned yachts in Europe alone due to the lack of end-of-life disposal options.

Q: How are you addressing these environmental concerns with Expedition Zero?

A: We are tackling these issues on two fronts: propulsion and construction materials. Firstly, the technology for fossil fuel-free yachts already exists. We are integrating the latest advancements in battery technology, electric propulsion, and renewable energy sources such as solar, hydro, and wind to power our yachts. Secondly, we are using a revolutionary new material made from melted minerals, which is not only recyclable but also stronger and lighter than traditional materials. This material is produced using a solar-powered furnace, further reducing its environmental impact.

Q: What is your vision for the future of the sailing industry with these innovations?

A: Our ambition is to prove that net-zero yachts can be commercially viable and transform the entire sailing industry. We are not just building a single sustainable yacht; we are creating a fleet of these vessels and introducing a new business model where we lease the yachts to sailing operators worldwide. This makes it financially viable for operators to adopt sustainable practices. By demonstrating the commercial success of these yachts, we hope to inspire widespread change across the yachting industry.

The team building the world's first ever sustainable adventure sailing yacht.
Construction is underway for the world’s first net-zero adventure sailing yacht.

Q: Do you have a launch customer for Expedition Zero?

A: Yes, our own Wavysail will be the launch customer. Wavysail will take the first Expedition Zero yacht on a groundbreaking voyage through the North West Passage. This 900-mile journey is one of the world’s great adventures and will serve as a powerful demonstration of the capabilities of our sustainable yachts. This voyage will not only highlight the environmental benefits but also the feasibility of sustainable commercial adventure sailing.

Q: Why the North West Passage?

Sadly, it’s becoming more accessible due to climate change, which in itself should be a wake-up call! We got lots of requests from customers interested in sailing the Northwest Passage, but the reality is that to do it today with the yachts that are available, we would need to burn around 1,500 litres of diesel. This is one of the most fragile eco-systems on Earth and it’s simply not something I felt we could do responsibly.

Adventure tourism without the right environmental and social guardrails in place can be massively destructive, so we need to champion sustainable adventure. Not just through words, but also through our actions.

That is why we’re building this yacht and why we’ll sail it through the passage when we can truly say we can do it in a sustainable and responsible manner.

Q: Are there still opportunities for people to get involved with this project?

A: Absolutely. We have six spots available for the North West Passage voyage. Additionally, we have created a group for enthusiasts who want to follow the yacht’s build process, meet the team, and participate in sea trials. This group is limited to 50 people and offers a unique opportunity to be part of this pioneering project. You can book all of this through adventuro!

The future of adventure sailing looks bright with the innovative solutions brought by Expedition Zero and Wavysail. By addressing the significant environmental challenges, they are setting a new standard for sustainability in the industry. Stay tuned as they embark on their journey through the North West Passage and lead the way towards a more sustainable future for adventure tourism.

Want to get involved in the Expedition Zero build and be part of the sea trials, or even join the group of six to sail the North West Passage? Click here!!

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Kate cofounder of adventuro
Co-founder and COO

I'm Kate, co-founder and COO of adventuro. Our goal is to assist you in diving into the sports you've always been eager to explore or to make the most of the activities you already love. My role is to partner with top-tier instructors, guides, and activity centres, so that we can offer you the full spectrum of adventure sports, from beginner to pro.

I love adventure sports and connecting with others who do, too. Having worked with hundreds of incredible partner centres, you can quiz me on everything adventure sports related no matter what your entry level. When not scouting out the best places for your next adventure, you'll find me freediving, kayaking, surfing, paddleboarding, mountain biking... oh, and doing a lot of faceplanting!

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