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 program created by a sporting event.
The round-the-world sailing race will measure microplastic pollution, gather information about the impact of climate change on the ocean and collect data to improve global weather forecasting.
Every boat participating in the grueling 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 analyzed by scientists from eight leading research organizations 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.
Data will be delivered to science partners faster, transmitted via satellite and reaching the organizations, which includes World Meteorological Organization, National Oceanography Center, Max Planck Society, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in real time.
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.
GUYOT environment – Team Europe and Holcim – PRB will take regular water samples throughout the race to test for micro-plastics.
As with the previous edition of the Race, the amount of micro-plastics will be measured throughout the route and, for the first time, samples will also be analyzed to determine which plastic product the fragments originated from (for example, bottles, straws or carrier bag).
The entire fleet will use onboard weather sensors to measure wind speed, wind direction and air temperature.
Some teams will also deploy drifter buoys in the Southern Ocean to capture these measurements on an ongoing basis, along with location data, which helps to grow understanding about how currents and the climate are changing.
Meteorological data will help to improve weather forecasts and are particularly valuable for predicting extreme weather events, as well as revealing insights on longer-term climate trends.
Biotherm is collaborating with the Tara Ocean Foundation to trial an experimental research project to study ocean biodiversity during the Race.
An onboard automated microscope will record images of marine phytoplankton on the ocean surface, which will be analyzed to provide insights on phytoplankton diversity in the ocean, along with biodiversity, food webs and the carbon cycle.
All of the collected data is open-source and shared with The Ocean Race’s science partners – organizations across the world that are examining the impact of human activity on the ocean.
Info 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 / Crickey Conservation Society News 2023.