Matt Rutherford, Ocean Research Project

Who is Your Hero?

In 2012, Matt Rutherford became the first person to solo circumnavigate North and South America. He completed the non-stop 27,000 mile journey in 10 months in a tiny, old sailboat.

Matt has embarked on a new project,, that aims to make ocean research more affordable. The typical running costs for scientific research in the open ocean is between $6,000 and $15,000 a day, depending on the organization. With Ocean Research Project they have a daily running cost of $112 a day.

Together with scientist Nicole Trenholm, Matt completed the Atlantic Garbage patch expedition on August 15, 2013. They spent 80 days at sea collecting data at 40 survey sites over 2,600 miles of the mid-Atlantic, sending some of the samples to the University of Japan for toxicity research and others to a lab to check the plastic for bacteria which shouldn’t be there. They are also quantifying the data to see just how much of this plastic is out there. They shot footage during the expedition and are creating a educational based adventure documentary. Next they will create a 3 day lesson plan, which will be interrogated into the Maryland public school system teaching thousands of 5th to 7th graders about the problems of plastics in the ocean. On April 1, 2014 they are leaving on another expedition – sailing from California to Japan non-stop doing marine radiation testing, filming the expedition, and repeating the education process. “We’re living in a changing economic environment; you can no longer think big boats, big crew, big budget. Instead, a non-profit should think small boat, small crew, small budget. By doing this, you not only reduce the cost of the expedition, but also the overhead.”

How has your Nominees efforts made a difference for the better?

Matt has already proven that he does what he sets out to do with his solo circumnavigation of the world. During the upcoming first of three new expeditions, Matt and his crew will be at sea for 75 days collecting data, while sailing 6,500 miles of the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic Ocean is home to the Atlantic Garbage Patch and coincides with one of the five major oceanic gyres. The Sargasso Sea Gyre is a huge spiral of seawater formed by colliding currents. Most offshore sailors have seen floating junk on the high seas, but it’s a problem that has not been thoroughly explored in the mid-Atlantic. It’s the poster child for one of the worldwide ocean problems: plastic that’s initially created with human hands, then ends up in the ocean, often found inside animals’ stomachs.

“I caught the bug and it’s too deeply imbedded to stop. Since I’m going to keep sailing I might as well do it in a way that gives back to the sea.”

How will being recognized as a YachtWorld Hero further your nominee’s cause?

The YachtWorld Hero nomination will bring visibility to Ocean Research Project, which aims to make ocean research more affordable. It will provide scientific data and education about the changes within our oceans to inspire people to action. Equipped with a team of expert scientists and sailors, they will embark on expeditions to some of the world’s most dynamic parts of the ocean. The expeditions will be carried out on a sailboat which is outfitted in a manner conscious of economical practicality yet environmentally-friendly to perform as a mobile research and observation station. Their scientific data and audiovisual educational mediums are used for several purposes.

Please share any website or online articles about your nominee’s activities.

Matt Rutherford was nominated by Tim Claxton of Dominion Marine Media in the category of Defending our Oceans.

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