By PPC Member Oceanum Vela
Kittery, Maine – In honor of World Oceans Day on June 8, 2020, environmental scientist, sailor, and now eco-preneur, Melissa Kalicin has announced the launch of Oceanum Vela, a company that repurposes authentic sails from elite racing boats into all manner of products. Her mission is to bring the global ocean race sailing community together to engage in the circular economy, all while promoting responsible sporting and ocean health.
Kalicin noticed that a big impediment to the greening of sailing is the discarding of old race sails. Most, including some elite sails that are important parts of racing history, are sent to the landfill or, luckily for her company, are in a holding pattern of hope being indefinitely stored.
Oceanum Vela works with local boutiques that repurpose sails into attractive bags and accessories. By doing so, the company prevents waste, generates awareness of the sail-to- landfill problem, and raises funds for ocean conservation efforts through proceeds from each memorabilia piece sold.
“It’s exciting and rewarding to develop a line of authentic race sail memorabilia from races such as the Ocean Race and America’s Cup,” enthused Kalicin. “Positive early reaction from racing fans, the sailors, sail makers and race organizations showed we were certainly onto something.”
One of Oceanum Vela’s first projects involved upcycling the sails from the former Volvo Ocean 70, Ericsson 3 from the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race in Italy. Oceanum Vela partnered with Jean-Martin Grisar, one of the original sail makers from the Ericsson campaign.
“Ten years ago, I had these sails in my hands, when they were new,” said Grisar, owner of JM Sail and Bags in Rimini. “I am very excited to work with them again, turning them into stylish bags and accessories fulfilling a mission of sustainability doing something positive to preserve our oceans.”
Having enough of a supply of old sails has not been a problem for Oceanum Vela — it collected approximately 3 tons of sail material since beginning operations in late 2018 despite not a having a warehouse. And interest from fans, pre-coronavirus, was building nicely.
“Sailing the Southern Ocean or racing across the bay at top America’s Cup foiling speeds is usually just a dream to most sailors and sailing fans,” Kalicin shared. “Many fans reached out to us with requests for merchandise from sails from their favorite teams. Feedback on the Oceanum Vela concept and our products have ranged from ‘that’s brilliant’ to ‘a Carbon Race Sail duffle from a Maxi Yacht; I love it!!’ Kalicin is bullish about Oceanum Vela’s prospects to provide real value to racing fans once a post-COVID-19 equilibrium is reached. Despite the unprecedented times, interest in partnering to have race sails repurposed into original sponsors’ product lines and accessories to raise funds for ocean conservation is growing.
“We have both race teams and sail lofts storing old sails for us in the US and Europe storing sails until the threats from COVID-19 recede and people can safely handle them again,” Kalicin noted.
In addition to the new projects, Kalicin continues to work on building the sustainable aspects of her business, firmly believing in her passion is both the right thing to do and is confident that racing fans — and other green-minded consumers — will agree.
Oceanum Vela became a member of the Plastic Pollution Coalition in January 2020. Kalicin, who was recently featured on the GreenSportsPod podcast, operates the company in line with PPC’s mission to “work toward a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impact on humans, animals, waterways, the ocean, and the environment.” Oceanum Vela strives to work with like-minded businesses and have a transparent supply chain as we attempt to make our products meet a 95 percent recycled content material threshold.
Ten percent of proceeds from Oceanum Vela’s sales go to ocean health organizations. This June, proceeds will go toward Clean Oceans Access, a fellow Plastic Pollution Coalition member, based in Newport, RI, with goals to eliminate marine debris, improve coastal water quality, and protect and preserve shoreline access. Clean Ocean Access aims to promote a sustainable sailing community through projects such as Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas, RI, and Shrink Wrap Recycling.