Savouring a Dominican organic rum would feel even more delicious if you read on the bottle that your fine spirit has reached you in Europe after a month-long voyage on board a sailing vessel directly from the Caribbean distillery. This is not a scene from a pirate movie and you have not travelled back to the 16th century.
It is the delightful result of the innovative yet very retro import/export business model of young French company TransOceanic Wind Transport – the wind-driven sailing ship.
TransOceanic seeks to bring together and connect sailboat owners with the producers and buyers of goods which can be shipped over the seas using only the power of the wind.
This very old tradition for European empires to communicate with the New World, which led to a cornucopia of substances like cocoa, corn and tobacco being brought to Europe for the first time, has been given new life by TOWT’s network of passionate sailors eager to promote an exciting, eco-friendly way of transporting cargo. Thanks to the alliance between these maritime enthusiasts from different countries, shipping cargo by sail is now no longer an absurdly nostalgic idea, but an economically sustainable and efficient alternative to engine-powered tankers and container ships.
A dozen vessels have worked with TOWT since its inception in 2009, and have moved hundreds of tonnes of choice products across the Atlantic Ocean and around the coastlines of Europe. Dominican chocolate, Portuguese tea, Scandinavian soap and French wine are just part of a growing list. The navigation routes always include a return journey with new cargo, so the economies at both ends of a shipping route benefit and the ships are never empty. People involved in the effort to resurrect old engineless sailboats highlight their reduction of greenhouse emissions and their capacity to return to a more personal and transparent way of trading.
“When consumers see our label on their products they understand it is a coherent way of doing things that puts together the old and the new,” says Diana Mesa, co-founder of TOWT, and originally from Colombia herself but now residing in Brest. “Local producers we deal with take lots of care to cultivate in the most natural and ecological way and they needed an alternative to cargo container ships to make the shipping process sustainable as well.”