The forthcoming edition of The Ocean Race, which sets sail from Alicante, Spain, on the 15th January, is set to feature the most ambitious and comprehensive science programme created by a sporting event.
Every boat participating in the gruelling six-month around-the-world race will carry specialist equipment onboard to measure a range of variables throughout the 60,000km route, which will be analysed by scientists from eight leading research organisations to further understanding about the state of the ocean. Sailing through some of the most remote parts of the planet, seldom reached by scientific vessels, teams will have a unique opportunity to collect vital data where information is lacking on two of the biggest threats to the health of the seas: the impact of climate change and plastic pollution.
Launched during the 2017-18 edition of the Race in collaboration with 11th Hour Racing, Premier Partner of The Ocean Race and Founding Partner of the Racing with Purpose sustainability programme, the innovative science programme will capture even more types of data in the forthcoming Race, including for the first time levels of oxygen and trace elements in the water. Data will also be delivered to science partners faster in this edition, transmitted via satellite and reaching the organisations, which includes World Meteorological Organisation, National Oceanography Centre, Max Planck Society, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in real time.
“A healthy ocean isn’t just vital to the sport we love, it regulates the climate, provides food for billions of people and supplies half the planet’s oxygen. Its decline impacts the entire world. To halt it, we need to supply governments and organisations with scientific evidence and demand they act on it.
“We are in a unique position to contribute to this; data collected during our previous races has been included in crucial reports about the state of the planet that have informed and influenced decisions by governments. Knowing that we can make a difference in this way has inspired us to expand our science programme even further and collaborate with more of the world’s leading science organisations to support their vital research.”
Indicators of climate change: Two boats, 11th Hour Racing Team and Team Malizia, will carry OceanPacks, which take water samples to measure levels of carbon dioxide, oxygen, salinity and temperature, providing insights about the impact of climate change on the ocean. Trace elements, including iron, zinc, copper and manganese, will also be captured for the first time. These elements are vital for the growth of plankton, an essential organism as it is the first part of the food chain and the ocean’s biggest producers of oxygen.
All of the collected data is open-source and shared with The Ocean Race’s science partners – organisations across the world that are examining the impact of human activity on the ocean – feeding into reports, including those from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and databases such as the Surface Ocean Carbon Dioxide Atlas, which provides data for the Global Carbon Budget, a yearly assessment of carbon dioxide that informs targets and predictions for carbon reduction.
The Ocean Race’s science programme, which is supported by 11th Hour Racing, Time to Act Partner Ulysse Nardin and Official Plastic-Free Ocean Partner Archwey, is being ramped up at a time when the impact of human activity on the ocean is becoming more widely understood. Recent studies have highlighted how higher temperatures in the ocean are fuelling extreme weather events and sea levels are projected to rise at a faster rate than anticipated, while whales have been found to ingest millions of microplastics every day.
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