Mirpuri Foundation is determined to make a real impact on the growing issue of ocean plastic pollution.

A non-profit organisation set up by Portuguese businessman and philanthropist Paulo Mirpuri, the Foundation works across six key areas – aerospace and aeronautical research; medical research; performing arts; wildlife conservation; and marine conservation – all with the aim of making the world a better place for future generations.

“We’ve been looking at areas where we can contribute for a better world – and this opportunity was one which was close to our hearts,” explains Paulo.

“Being a sailor and an amateur skipper for many years, and being close to the sea, we have decided that we should spend more time and more resources passing on the message regarding the problems faced by our oceans.”

Leading that charge in this campaign – which is also backed by the Ocean Family Foundation – is Volvo Ocean Race veteran Dee Caffari, who returns for a second consecutive edition to represent a cause she is extremely passionate about.

“It’s so exciting to be carrying a global message on a global stage like the Volvo Ocean Race – a campaign that touches and affects every single one of us,” reveals Dee.

Mirpuri himself is no stranger to life offshore, or the Volvo Ocean Race. To raise awareness of the Foundation’s ‘Save The Ocean’ marine conservation campaign, he recently skippered the former Green Dragon Volvo Open 70 yacht – renamed Mirpuri Foundation – on a 2,300-mile passage from Cape Verde to Barbados.

The six-day voyage was completed by an experienced 10-strong crew, sourced from seven European countries.

“In the Mirpuri Foundation, we believe in leading by example. Before we decided to sponsor a team in the Volvo Ocean Race, I wanted to have the experience – or at least a small taste of it – myself,” he explains.

He adds: “I experienced first hand how hard sailing these boats is, and I’m now better prepared and can appreciate and understand much better what the teams of the Volvo Ocean Race will go through. I only did it for six days and these guys do it for 8 months. I can testify that it is pretty tough, but at the same time a very rewarding experience.”

For Paulo, the selection of the first – and potentially only – female skipper in the 2017-18 edition, to lead a truly mixed, 50/50 male-female boat, is key – and represents one of the key pillars of the Foundation.

“Diversity is very important and is a value that we defend in the Mirpuri Foundation,” he explains. “We’re honoured that Dee will lead the boat – she shares our values and has the profile to make a real impact with our message.”

In essence, the Mirpuri Foundation is about taking action now, to make a difference to the future.

In addition to raising awareness around the growing issue of ocean plastic pollution, the Foundation’s long-term ambition is to write the next chapter in Portugal’s offshore sailing history.

“Portugal has long held a rich maritime heritage, and this youth-orientated campaign is a major step towards shaping the world-class future of Portuguese offshore racing,” Paulo said.

“In the short-term, we’ve agreed that the Turn the Tide on Plastic boat will feature a couple of Portuguese sailors,” explains Paulo. “The Mirpuri Foundation is a Portuguese organisation, and we’re very proud that we’ll see Portuguese sailors amongst other international team members.”

Looking further ahead, there are plans to enter a fully Portuguese crew in a future edition, even as early as 2019 – and a Portugal-based Volvo Ocean Race Youth Academy could complement a sponsorship deal recently signed with Clube Naval Cascais, which has seen the Foundation donate 10 new, branded boats to the school.

“If you bring people closer to the sea, then you create more ambassadors to carry your message forwards. It’s important for us to support the sport of sailing in Portugal, from beginners, to intermediate and then to an advanced level.

“We are discussing enthusiastically with Volvo Ocean Race the possibility of establishing a Volvo Ocean Race Academy in Portugal, in either Lisbon or Cascais. I think this would be a good way to prepare more Portuguese sailors to go into offshore racing, and honour the heritage of Portugal in the sea.”

Paulo continues: “There are three things which come to mind which are key parts of our participation in the next edition. We have a strong and engaging sustainability message, we have – potentially – the only female skipper, and we are investing and expecting to have a young, energetic team that will carry our message in a stronger way to a global audience. These three reasons make us very honoured, happy and proud.”