Pip Grundy sets sail on a two-year trip to study ocean plastic

Published 25/10/2019

UKSA Yachtmaster Offshore graduate Pip Grundy has just been selected to be part of the crew of eXXpedition, a pioneering all-female sailing voyage and research mission. Over two years and 38,000 nautical miles, a crew of 300 women will sail through some of the densest ocean plastic accumulation zones to study plastic pollution.

Pip shares her story with us…

“I grew up moving around between the Netherlands and Norway before settling in the UK. I attended The University of Edinburgh before deciding that I wanted to spend some time at sea. After completing a summer season as a flotilla hostess in Croatia I knew I wanted to get my Yachtmaster Offshore qualification. I spoke to some of the best skippers that I was working with, both of whom had completed their training at UKSA. After further research and seeing the excellent reputation UKSA has, I knew it was the place I wanted to go as well.

I did my RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Qualification as part of the Professional Yachtmaster Course, starting in January 2019 and finishing in early May. I then flew out to Croatia to work as a flotilla skipper for Sunsail and then worked as part of a skipper/host team doing crewed charter for Yacht Getaways.

I have so many fond memories of my time at UKSA: from working hard in the classroom to pushing myself physically and mentally in the more practical side of the courses. The main thing that stands out to me is the sense of camaraderie that you form with your fellow students and the incredible support of the dedicated staff. The skills that I learned at UKSA have helped me immensely in my maritime career. Being thrown together with people from all walks of life and learning to work together as a crew helped me greatly in dealing with many different situations as a flotilla skipper.

I applied to the eXXpedition trip because Environmental issues have always been close to my heart, especially ones that affect the ocean and its wildlife. When I saw eXXpedition’s main focus was on the plastics crisis, and more specifically microplastics, I was incredibly intrigued. I knew I needed to apply as XXpedition champions women in both sailing and STEM subjects where women are grossly underrepresented, plus I was drawn to the excitement and adventure of being part of a circumnavigation. I hope eXXpedition opens conversations around female leadership, personal and environmental awareness, and cultural and societal shifts.

I am proud of making it through the application process as more the 10,000 women applied! The skills gained doing my Yachtmaster Offshore were definitely one of the main factors in me being selected, along with a passion for conservation and tackling environmental problems. It was a huge honour to be selected and I want to use the opportunity to connect with many other likeminded individuals and hopefully use this as a springboard to make a positive impact in making the sailing community a greener, more thoughtful industry in any way I can.

I am joining leg nine of the trip in April 2020. We leave from Papeete in Tahiti and sail 600nm to main Cook Island, Raratonga. Skirting the edge of the South Pacific Gyre. I am part of a diverse and multidisciplinary crew of 10 and will be helping by collaborating with a local organisation to look at the plastic pollution issues the island faces in more depth.

I’m incredibly excited to be sailing in the Southern Hemisphere, which will be a first for me; being able to explore new places and hopefully spread the message about the need to address the plastics issue. Furthermore, being able to tangibly do the science onboard the ship including the surface manta trawls and processing of ocean surface microplastic samples. Lastly just to see all the incredibly diverse wildlife that the Society Islands have to offer.

I want to be able to make a small impact on the local communities by discussing and implementing upstream solutions for tackling the plastics problem on the ground level such as beach cleans. On a larger scale, I hope eXXpedition will ‘make the unseen, seen’ and achieve its aim of encouraging solution-based science, by contributing to world-class scientific studies that are urgently needed to inform up-stream solutions and close the loop on plastic waste on land. Further, I hope it can start to encourage a shift in people’s perceptions and educate people by creating awareness around the issue of plastic pollution.

My main inspiration is the director and co-founder of eXXpedition, Emily Penn. She is an oceans advocate, skipper and artist; a graduate of Cambridge University with a degree in Architecture. Her passion for the planet and drive to create something like eXXpedition is a huge inspiration to me. She is also a recipient of the Yachtmaster of the Year Award and at the time of winning was the youngest and only female recipient. Other inspirations are Laura Dekker, I admire her courage and sense of adventure and of course Ellen McArthur for everything she has done for women in sailing.”

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