At The Ocean Race we want to do all we can to support and protect our seas. An important element of this is using our unique race - which goes through some of the most remote parts of the planet - to gather valuable information about the state of the ocean.
This isn’t something that we can do alone, we rely on our amazing teams, who embrace our science programme and play a key role in helping to improve understanding about our marine world and the threats it faces.
We launched our innovative science programme during the 2017-18 edition of our round-the-world sailing race. As the seven boats travelled through some of the most remote parts of our ocean they measured a range of variables to help provide insights on weather, climate change and microplastics.
As they raced, sailors deployed 30 scientific drifter buoys, which captured valuable data. This information was shared with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Global Drifter Program to further scientific understanding of sea surface temperature, ocean currents and the Earth’s climate.
Two of the teams, Turn the Tide on Plastic and Team AkzoNobel, measured levels of microplastic pollution in the ocean and found it to be widespread, even in the most remote locations. Out of a total of 86 water samples taken during the last Race, a staggering 93% contained microplastic pollution.
Onboard sampling equipment also provided scientists with measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2), sea surface temperature, salinity and chlorophyll a. About one-third of human CO2 emissions have been absorbed by the ocean over time. Annual assessments of the exchange of carbon between the ocean and atmosphere are a key factor in the world's 'carbon budget', which informs targets and predictions for carbon reduction.
For our next race in 2022-23 our ambition is to expand this powerful collaboration between science and our racing teams. We will equip even more boats with specialised equipment so that a fleet of sampling boats will capture direct measurements from parts of the ocean rarely accessible for scientific research.
By working with international ocean observation organisations and leading ocean science experts and institutions the data will be anlaysed to improve forecasts and predictions related to the ocean, climate and weather. This helps to provide an understanding of longer-term trends, patterns and changes. The data are also valuable in the short-term for predicting intensifying storms and extreme weather events.
Data, including carbon dioxide, salinity and temperature, which are valuable for scientists examining the effects of and predictions related to climate change, will be provided to the international carbon research community via the Surface Ocean Carbon Dioxide Atlas (SOCAT). SOCAT provides data for annual Global Carbon Budgets, important yearly assessments that inform IPCC targets and predictions.
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.
Governments and organisations base policy and decisions on the best available scientific knowledge in order to effectively protect and restore the ocean, so we feel privileged to be in a position to help improve knowledge and generate a more comprehensive understanding of the state of our seas.
Through our science programme we are committed to ensuring that the data collection from boats is of the highest quality and fit for purpose to optimise value for the scientific community. We have appointed advisors to provide guidance and ensure scientific rigour. Our advisors are:
- Dr Carlie Wiener - Schmidt Ocean Institute - Director of Communications and Engagement Strategy
- Martin Kramp - WMO-IOC OceanOPS - Technical Coordinator