During the 2017-18 edition of our prestigious round-the-world sailing race, we launched an innovative Science Programme. As the seven boats travelled through extremely remote areas of our ocean they deployed 30 scientific drifter buoys. These captured valuable data, for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Global Drifter Program, to further scientific understanding of ocean health and the Earth’s climate.
The Turn the Tide on Plastic and Team AkzoNobel boats also collected further information on board, including data on microplastic concentrations. Out of a total of 86 samples taken, 93% of those analysed contained microplastic pollution. Even close to Point Nemo, the furthest place from land on Earth, where the nearest humans are on the International Space Station, particles were found.
Onboard sampling equipment also provided scientists with measurements of CO2, sea surface temperature, salinity and chlorophyll. About one-third of human CO2 emissions have been absorbed by the ocean over time, making accurate measurements a key component to understanding the exchange of carbon between the ocean and atmosphere.
The results, available open source, contribute to increased understanding of ocean health including the global marine presence of microplastics, providing a template for future data collection. This unique collaboration between ocean research organisations and sailors has been commended for its significant contribution to increasing understanding of ocean health by filling critical observational gaps in remote areas.
Since the race finished, we have expanded the programme, continuing to collect oceanographic data over the Summer of 2019 during The Ocean Race Tour, a series of corporate sailing events taking place around the continent. By attending leading scientific and ocean health related conferences we are able to share our knowledge and unique insights with the international scientific community.
This scientific work forms part of the ‘Racing with Purpose’ programme which also includes initiatives to advance renewable energy usage onboard the IMOCA 60 and VO65 class boats, and drive innovation for more sustainable boat building practices. The programme is being delivered in collaboration with Premier Partner 11th Hour Racing and supported by Official Partners Bluewater and Volvo Cars.