Meet the COO

Designer, builder and keen sailor of vessels – Ewan Hind has done it all. We caught up with Arksen’s Chief Operating Officer to discuss how he first got into the marine industry, sustainability and the need for respect towards our oceans, the impact of a pandemic as well as some of his envious past adventures. 

You’re a keen sailor. When did your love for the sea first arise?

Ewan Hind (EW): When I was young, the family moved to the west coast of Scotland and my parents ran a traditional sailing boat as a charter business. We sailed on the boat during the summers around the Hebrides, and we lived by the sea and spent our spare time messing around in dinghies. I was bitten by the bug early on!

The Scottish Hebrides where Ewan spent his childhood summers

With over 25 years of experience within the marine industry, you’ve been involved in the designing, building and sailing of vessels. How did you first get into the industry?

EW: I passed my Yachtmaster at 17 and spent every summer through my late teens sailing professionally, and volunteering with Sail Training organisations, before spending many years involved in sailing and sail training full time after graduation. I had dreams of being a yacht designer from my early teens and studied for a Masters degree in Naval Architecture at Southampton University, which was my route into designing and building boats. I’ve been lucky to be able to combine designing, building and time at sea on all sorts of boats during my career to date.

Marine conservation is at the heart of Arksen. Has the sustainability of the marine industry been something that has become more important to you over the years?

EW: Yes, absolutely. Having spent my formative years going to sea in a naturally sustainable way – on sailing boats, mostly wooden, and in beautiful, unspoilt places – leaving a light footprint was very natural. When my career took me into the large yacht world, I was shocked by some of the prevailing attitudes and lack of respect for the ocean environment. Over the last few years, there has certainly been a general shift in attitudes toward more sustainable operation, but there is certainly a long way to go. I hope that with Arksen, we can be part of leading that change.

Ewan Hind sailing in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race

How vital do you think it is for yacht companies to respect, understand their impact and protect the oceans. Do you think enough is being done in the industry?

EW: Positive change is certainly happening within the industry, but it is slow and more needs to happen. Much in the yachting sector revolves around wealthy owners – cash-rich, time-poor, with a focus on convenience and with habits ingrained over decades of consumption. Widespread, systemic change has to start where the money is, with a shift in attitudes from the people who pay the bills. There are many thoughtful owners investing in more sustainable yachts and operations, and the industry is responding with numerous innovations to facilitate this. But, at the moment, these innovations are grabbing headlines – a sign that they are not yet the norm. These innovations show what the direction of travel needs to be, and there is some momentum building. But the industry certainly needs to do more to guide owners in the right direction – to be more proactive rather than simply responsive – in order to accelerate change.

What are you most excited for, for the future of Arksen?

EW: I’m looking forward to helping owners plan incredible adventures in their Arksen vessels, facilitating research and conservation work aboard through Yachts for Science, and using our shared ownership programmes to make access to ocean adventures more achievable.

Ewan and his crew sailing in 2006

Many events have been put on hold this year due to COVID-19, including major boat shows such as Cannes Yachting Festival and Southampton International Boat Show. How do you think the yachting industry will fair with the disruption compared to other industries?

EW: It seems to be a mixed outlook for the marine industry. The uncertainty caused by the pandemic is certainly putting some plans on hold in the short term, but access to a boat provides a perfect opportunity for socially distanced fun and adventure and this is being recognised. The small boat sector, where stock is readily available to have and use now, is doing very well. In the longer term, I am hopeful that the changes in outlook and habits brought about by Covid-19, lockdown living, remote working and social distancing will encourage more people to buy and charter as a great way to have family time, undertake adventures in safety and comfort, and do so for longer periods, as remote working opportunities and faster connectivity at sea allow business’ to be conducted from anywhere.

Trends come and go, but where do you see the future of the marine industry heading? Are we all getting more adventurous?

EW: I believe so – being more adventurous and getting to less frequented places seems to be a long term trend in travel generally, not just the marine industry. Air travel is forecast to be depressed for another 2-3 years, making travel and exploration by boat the perfect way for people to get their adventure fix!

You’ve banked over 100,000 miles at sea over the years, which has been your best adventure to date?

EW: There are so many highlights in that time! The Clipper Round the World race was certainly one of these. Crossing the South Pacific from Panama to New Zealand via the Galapagos, Polynesia, Tonga and Fiji was another. But there is great adventure closer to home as well – trips to St Kilda, Norway and the Isles of Scilly also stand out as memorable.

Bryther, Isles of Scilly

Adventure can come at a cost, we find not everything always runs smoothly. What’s been one of your biggest challenges when on an expedition?

EW: When I set off on the Clipper Round the World race, my first priority was to bring everyone home safely. Fortunately, I managed to do this – the worst injury during the voyage was to myself! Crossing the North Pacific with my leg in a brace was a challenge as it very much limited my physical involvement on deck. However, my amazing crew stepped up, sailed brilliantly, and we won that leg.

You’ve ticked off many bucket list adventures including skippering in the gruelling biannual Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, what’s next for Ewan?

EW: I’m now married with two young sons, so over the next few years, I hope that my adventures will mostly be family affairs, as we introduce our boys to sailing, the oceans and adventurous travel.

Help Our Kelp

Photo by Jack Atkinson

Help Our Kelp x Arksen Foundation

In late August this year, the Arksen Foundation teamed up with research fellows, Dr Chris Yesson and Stephen Long from the ZSL Institute of Zoology, to survey the presence of kelp along the south coast of England. The Arksen RIB was used to launch a small remotely operated tethered camera system (the Trident ROV) to survey the shallow areas of the coastline.

Help Our Kelp Campaign

Back in 2019, a survey by Sussex IFCA and ZSL was conducted with the Sussex IFCA patrol vessel, whilst towing a video sled across the deeper waters and along the flat seabed. The video was analysed and found there to be no kelp in the area (approximately 30km stretching from Pagham to Shoreham), despite it being a previous location of abundant kelp forests. It was clear that over the last 40 years, these important habitats had diminished significantly and the majority of kelp had been lost, due to storm damage, changing fishing practices and the dumping of sediment spoils by dredging boats.

This kicked off a kelp restoration project headed by Sussex IFCA as well as the Help Our Kelp campaign in September 2019, in partnership with Sussex Wildlife Trust, Blue Marine Foundation, Marine Conservation Society and Big Wave Productions.

Once stretched along 40 km, from Selsey to Shoreham, the underwater forest extended at least 4 km seaward. The campaign acts to restore the vast underwater kelp forest off the Sussex coast to its previous state.

The Help our Kelp campaign has the full support of broadcaster and natural historian, Sir David Attenborough, who voices the stunning campaign film. The film acts to encapsulate the environmental benefits of kelp and their necessity to ecosystems, as well as the wealth of wildlife to be found in this diverse habitat.

In January 2020, the Help our Kelp campaign had a breakthrough, with the Sussex IFCA, proposing a new bylaw that will see restricted trawling (a fishing method that involves pulling a fishing net through the water behind a boat), in a 304 km2 area along the Sussex coastline to promote kelp restoration.

What is kelp?

Kelp is the name for a group of large brown seaweeds that can form dense aggregations known as kelp forests. They are one of the most biodiverse environments on the planet and much like coral reefs, create an oasis of life wherever it grows. Kelp provides essential nurseries, habitats and feeding grounds for wildlife such as seahorses, cuttlefish, lobster, sea bream and bass.

They also absorb a huge quantity of carbon, meaning these forests are not only vital for sea life, but for climate change. Globally, kelp forests drawdown over 600 million tonnes of carbon, which is twice what the UK admits per year. They are therefore a vital tool that we need to fight the fight against climate change.

Kelp forests can also absorb the power of waves, meaning water quality is improved and coastal erosion reduced. They, therefore, have a huge impact on the world we live in and their restoration is vital to the sustainability of our planet.

Help Our Kelp x Arksen RIB

The aim of August’s 2020 survey with the Arksen RIB was to view places the video sled couldn’t previously reach in 2019, due to its restriction use on the flat seabed. There had been some anecdotal reports of kelp in rockier areas, so the Arksen RIB facilitated, with the use of a small ROV, to help reach these more remote areas.

With the new bylaw for restricted trawling in place, the team also wanted to establish a baseline of kelp coverage so that they could effectively monitor the forest recovery.

If kelp was found to be attached to any fixed underwater structures, such as pipes or old concrete platforms, it would be clear that kelp can still grow naturally in the area. By simply replacing rock beds along the coast, along with the trawler exclusion zone in place, a significant impact on kelp restoration could see the kelp forest start to return to the area.

Photo by Jack Atkinson

The team successfully deployed the camera system from the Arksen RIB, despite some challenging weather conditions. There were sightings of a couple of blades of Sugar Kelp, in an area south of Selsey Bill as well as a lot of ‘Dead Man’s Rope’ (brown seaweed formed into long, cord-like fronds) which is much more widespread than the previous year.

Sussex IFCA and ZSL have established from the recent survey that long-term kelp restoration is dependent on both the availability of kelp spores (to seed recovery) as well as a suitable seabed substrate, where kelp can settle and grow into its mature form. To thrive, the kelp forests need strong anchoring points so that they can withstand the ocean waves. The survey helped the team identify if the presence of large rocks was sufficient to allow for kelp growth in the area.

The Arksen RIB was a key factor in allowing the team to access the more remote and hard to reach rocky areas of the coastline. The Arksen Foundation will continue to facilitate the research and monitoring of the Sussex kelp forests and are proud to support academic marine research and conservation projects, especially for conservation charities such as ZSL.

If you would like to know how you can get involved to help with the project please visit the Sussex Wildlife Website. Or if you are a vessel looking to offer time onboard to scientists please register your interest at Yachts for Science.

Sugar Kelp captured by the ROV in low visibility
Yacht of the Year 2021

We’re excited to announce that Arksen is sponsoring the brand new ‘Yacht of the Year’ category at the Ocean Awards 2021

The award will acknowledge vessels, their owners and/or crew that have actively helped enhance the health of the ocean. This could be through allowing access for researchers, conservationists and scientists, or through raising awareness of ocean issues, or through hands-on initiatives of their own. The ‘Yacht of the Year’ award is designed to celebrate the people behind the scenes who work to allow vital ocean-saving work to occur. The winner will demonstrate a commitment to ocean conservation throughout their vessel function, and the people who serve on her.

Arksen founder, Jasper Smith, will also be on the judging panel in January next year. Listen to him announcing the news on Episode 6 of the BOAT Briefing podcast here.

Entry Criteria: 
Nominees for this award must be able to demonstrate how their vessel and those onboard have provided services to enable work to occur that demonstrably enhances ocean health, either by adapting, or by equipping a vessel, which enables valuable conservation work.  

Nominees must also provide evidence of the kind of impact the research conducted has had, or could have, on ocean preservation.

Think you have what it takes? Enter your nomination here

The Ocean Awards recognises individuals, community groups, organisations and businesses that have made significant contributions to the health of the marine environment. 

An initiative very close to the heart of Arksen, we are delighted to be partnering with the sixth annual Ocean Awards and providing the winner of ‘Yacht of the Year’ with a financial donation to help further their ocean conservation efforts.

If you would like to know how you and your yacht can get involved with providing scientists with vital time at sea, why not check out the Yachts for Science project.

Amazon Smile and Arksen Foundation

We are delighted to announce that you can now do more to help the world’s oceans when you make an eligible purchase on Amazon with Amazon Smile.

If you are not already a user, you can easily sign in to Amazon Smile using your standard Amazon details to activate your account and select the Arksen Foundation as your chosen charity to support.

Then all you need to do is open your Amazon app, ensure it is up to date, from the menu select settings, click on Amazon Smile, then follow the instructions. Please note, the Arksen Foundation is only registered to the .co.uk website so please double check.

You still get the same products, prices etc and at no cost to you Amazon Smile will donate 0.5% to your favourite charity.  

The Arksen Foundation is a non-profit organisation that provides project funding, facilitates cutting-edge scientific research and creates innovative media to inspire a greater understanding of the beauty, complexity and fragility of the ocean ecosystem and it’s interfaces with the land around it.

We aim to be a platform for research, conservation, creativity and funding in support of the identification of new species, preservation of existing species and stimulating behavioural change globally. The projects we support are in alignment with our cornerstones; Ocean access, research and advocacy projects, education, exploration and sport with purpose.

You can learn more about Amazon Smile here and how to change your charity here.

Discover more about the Yachts for Science project supported by the Arksen Foundation.

Discover more about the Arksen Foundation here>>

A Simple Journey

Photo by Alex Glebov

“The sea represents a profound step change from the chaos and busyness of day-to-day life to understanding who you really are. I’ve learned that I’m probably not as complex as I thought I was. At its most basic, I think life is quite a simple journey.” – Jasper Smith

The Oceanographic Magazine sat down to speak with our founder Jasper Smith about his deep connection with this planet’s wild places, why the marine industry needs shaking up, and what roles sustainability and conservation will play in Arksen’s long-term plans.

Read the full article here>>

Discover more about Jasper’s past adventures here>>

Oceanographic Interview

A passion for minimalistic, human-powered expeditions has taken endurance athlete and ocean rower Olly Hicks to every continent and to every ocean. A world record-breaking adventurer, his brutal ocean crossings have taught him a little bit about solitude and survival. We sit down to find out a little more about the man behind the adventures.

Oceanographic Magazine

Read the full interview with Olly Hicks here>>>

Find out more about Olly Hicks here>>>

Yachts for Science Launch

BOAT International Media and partners today announce the digital launch of the innovative ‘Yachts for Science’ project, following a successful pilot mission which explored the black corals in the Raja Ampat region of Indonesia in January 2020. Coinciding with World Oceans Day, Yachts for Science, which is backed by BOAT International Media, Nekton, the Arksen Foundation and the Ocean Family Foundation, debuts a digital platform to help marine scientists reach new depths of the ocean, connecting scientists with yachts to conduct research and conservation projects.

Despite centuries of venturing to sea, the human race has only discovered an estimated 9% of the species living within the ocean and mapped a fraction of the ocean floor. The lack of access to the sea is a fundamental problem for marine scientists and conservation experts when understanding the ocean ecosystem.

To advance global knowledge of the state of the ocean, Yachts for Science will unveil a new dedicated website in June 2020 to match yachts with marine research projects to enable critical research and conservation work to progress. The aim is to continue producing findings that will inform decision and policy makers across the world while expanding the knowledge of the ocean.

Sacha Bonsor, Editorial Director at Boat International Media said: “The oceans are critical to the health of the planet and yachts are uniquely placed to help save them by offering access to often inaccessible areas. The ‘Yachts for Science’ initiative will be a leader in pioneering the exploration and understanding of the oceans.”

The first successful Yachts for Science pairing took place in January 2020 to study the black corals in the Raja Ampat region of Indonesia for two weeks onboard luxury charter yacht Dunia Baru. It was led by Dr Erika Gress and her team of four marine biologists from the University of Papua (UNIPA), Manokwari and the NGO Bionesia. The aim was to gain insights into the abundance and diversity of black corals and their role as fundamental habitat providers in Raja Ampat reefs. This study will ultimately provide information on the black coral ecology and the reefs they thrive in.

The main exploration took place in an area known as the Coral Triangle, which is renowned for the density of its marine organisms and boasts the largest diversity of corals on the planet. The topography is stunning both above and below water, changing dramatically from east to west with the north-west dominated by low lying sand atolls and the south-east by cast rock structures with large vertical walls. An abundance of colonies seem to favour the south-eastern region, where reefs were in generally in better condition than on the west side of Misool, outside the protected area. It also appears to support a high diversity of black corals, possibly including undescribed species. “We were only able to do one night dive,” recalls scientist Erika Gress, “but it was one of the best of the whole trip. Many of the marine organisms and invertebrates like shrimps and crabs that use black coral as habitat are more active at night and it was easier see them.”

Future planned expeditions include a study of deep scattering layers led by Professor Andrew Brierley of the University of St Andrews. “Deep scattering layers are almost like an outer space environment,” says Professor Andrew Brierley. “Extraordinary animals hang there in the twilight or total darkness. Lanternfish, for example, with their flashing photophores, wonderful crustaceans and giant shrimp. It will give us a completely new window into an aspect of the world’s ocean that we don’t yet have.”

There is a range of new scientific projects looking for yacht partnerships, including the search for giant manta rays or coral reef ecology post-hurricanes in the Caribbean. You can view some of the live briefs below:

 More detail on the program can be viewed here.

A full selection of the projects can be viewed here.

Arksen Origins – Episode 2

As a team of climbers, sailors, skiers, divers, surfers and kiteboarder’s, getting off the beaten track is in our DNA and this fuels our passion for the ocean. Discover more about the adventures of two lead characters behind Arksen, Founder Jasper Smith and Foundation & Explorers’ Club Director, Olly Hicks.

“I was very lucky to do a trip sailing from Australia all the way up to Alaska on a sailing boat, and we were one of the first boats, if not the first western boat to go into Kamchatka. I was a climber and so I had spent many years climbing and being inspired by Doug Scott, Stephen Venables and Chris Bonington and these amazing mountaineers.” – Jasper Smith, Arksen Founder

Not seen the Return to the Blue from the Arksen Film series? Click here to watch it now>>

Arksen Origins – Olly Hicks

We are keen to keep the sense of adventure going while we are all in lock down and provide a little light entertainment by sharing some of our own past adventures in our new series of short films, Arksen Origins.

The first episode in the series delves into the mind of Olly Hicks, the driving force behind the Arksen Foundation and Arksen Explorers’ Club. Utilising his vast exploration background and love of the ocean to help inspire others to push themselves and achieve once in a lifetime journeys.

His accomplishments include being the only person to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean from the USA to England after 124 days at sea as well as the youngest to row any ocean solo (at the time!). Olly also made the first row across the Tasman Sea from Tasmania to New Zealand, through 96 days alone on the notoriously wild southern ocean. In addition to that he has several extreme kayak voyages under his belt including a 200 mile crossing from the Shetland Islands to Norway in memory of the World War Two Shetland Bus Operation.

Watch the first origins film here and find out more about Olly’s other adventures below.

Discover more about Olly’s past adventures

The Greenland to Scotland Challenge:

Row the World:

Olly recently spoke at The Economist Sea Tourism event, you can watch his speech here>>

Olly Hicks calls for more collaboration at Sea Tourism event

“We must be fully awake to the challenges ahead, not least the increasing number of people hungry for a finite amount of resource and the negative impact unmanaged tourism can have on our planets most precious places”

Olly Hicks

Back in early January, Olly Hicks, Executive Director of the Arksen Foundation, spoke at the Economist Sea Tourism event prior to boot Düsseldorf. During the speech he called for a collaborative approach to ensure a sustainable future of sea tourism, and to not close our eyes to the challenges ahead.

“We must also welcome more joined up thinking, innovation and cross fertilisation of ideas. What were once eccentric industries and ideas may now prove critical.”

Olly Hicks