The Ocean Race, the world’s toughest test of a team in sport and the world’s greatest sailing challenge, will collect vital data on the impact people have on the ocean during the first European race.
Several teams participating in Ocean Race Europe this summer will have scientific equipment on board to collect measurements of microplastics in water and data on the effects of climate change on the oceans. Ocean Race Europe’s scientific data collection is endorsed by the UN Decade for Marine Sciences for Sustainable Development, which supports efforts to reverse the cycle of declining marine health and create improved conditions for the sustainable development of the ocean.
Two boat classes will take part in the race, IMOCA 60s and VO65s. Two VO65 teams, AmberSail2 and W Ocean Racing, take microplastic samples during the race, while an IMOCA 60 boat sailed by the 11th Hour Racing Team takes surface measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2), ocean temperature and salinity – indicators – around the clock for climate change.
Climate change and plastic pollution are two of the greatest threats to ocean health. The ocean plays a crucial role in regulating the climate. It has absorbed over 90% of man-made excess heat  and absorbed a quarter of man-made CO2  since the 1970s, helping to curb climate change effectively. Plastic is now a more visible problem as at least 8 million tons of it enter the ocean each year , damaging marine species that ingest or become entangled in it.
The data collected during Ocean Race Europe will be made available to scientific organizations that study and map these issues. The dissolved CO2 measurements taken by the 11th Hour Racing Team are used by EuroSea, a European Commission funded program that assesses the ocean’s role in climate change and improves the ocean observation system. During Ocean Race Europe, boats race through the western Mediterranean, one of the global hotspots for carbon absorption by the ocean and one of EuroSea’s priorities for its CO2 audit project.
Dr. EuroSea’s Toste Tanhua said, “The ocean is doing a great service to humanity by absorbing large amounts of CO2 and heat. EuroSea is working to improve the way these benefits are measured and understood, including the value of money They bring.
“The Mediterranean is very efficient at absorbing CO2, but its ability to do so can vary and needs to be closely monitored, which is why additional data is so useful. Working with the sailing community on this quest is a great opportunity to align our interest and passion for the sea with a common goal. ”
The 11th Hour Racing team will send CO2 measurements to the Surface Ocean Carbon Dioxide Atlas (SOCAT), which provides data for the Global Carbon Budget, an annual assessment of CO2, the targets and predictions for CO2 reduction contains. It is important that scientists understand ocean CO2 levels in order to have an accurate budget and keep the world on track to stay within the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius to limit.
Mairéad O’Donovan, Head of Science Program for the Ocean Race, said: “We know how important the ocean is, not just for the sport we love, but also for climate regulation and food supply , Jobs and oxygen that we breathe. We also know that human influences seriously affect the ocean. By collecting data on the state of our seas, we can contribute to a better understanding of marine health through this unique collaboration between seafarers and marine research organizations. It is a privilege to be able to provide valuable data to the scientific community, and it is important that governments use the science to protect and restore our ocean and all that depends on it. “
Assembly of the microplastic data equipment. (Courtesy Jesus Renedo / Volvo AB)
In collaboration with the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel and the University of Utrecht, the data collected by the VO65 teams will help develop a three-dimensional map of all plastic in our ocean by taking measurements in areas where there is currently a shortage of files. The samples will be analyzed by GEOMAR laboratory scientists and the data will be modeled by a team from Utrecht University studying the potential of microplastics for transfer into the food chain and deep-sea ecosystems.
Erik van Sebille, oceanographer at the University of Utrecht, said: “The special thing about The Ocean Race is that the ships go at lightning speed. This speed gives us a great opportunity as the measurements are taken in different locations with a minimal amount of time between them, which means that the ocean currents did not change during the sampling. This makes the interpretation of the observations much easier. Measuring microplastics in the ocean is a really difficult task. The more organizations and teams help, the more data we get. ”
The Ocean Race Europe will take place in May / June of this year and will start in Lorient in northwestern France and end in Genoa, Italy. Ambersail2 not only collects data during the race, but also data during a prologue in the Northern European Baltic Sea. This will be the first time that such measurements have been carried out in the Baltic Sea, which is considered to be very highly polluted. The collected data will be passed on to the Marine Research Institute of the University of Klaipeda for further study of the pollution of the Baltic Sea.
11th Hour Racing Team crosses the North Atlantic. (Courtesy Amory Ross)
The Ocean Race kicked off its innovative science program during the 2017-18 edition of the Around-the-World Sailing Race. As the seven boats traveled through some of the most remote parts of the ocean, they measured a number of variables to gain insights into weather, climate change, and microplastics.
For the next edition of The Ocean Race in 2022-23, the science program will continue to expand, with even more boats being equipped with specialized equipment so that a fleet can take direct measurements of parts of the ocean that are used for scientific research only are seldom accessible.
The science program is part of The Ocean Race’s award-winning “Racing with Purpose” sustainability program, which brings together a number of specific ways in which we can have a positive impact on the marine environment. Working with 11th Hour Racing – founding partner of the Racing with Purpose program and premier partner of the Ocean Race – and Volvo Cars, we educate kids to help the ocean and hold high-level summits to advance global policy makers on protecting and protecting policies to develop to control the ocean, work with the world’s leading organizations and NGOs, and much more. More information can be found here. Sources: 1. IPCC 2. The oceanic sink for anthropogenic CO2 from 1994 to 2007, published in Science 3. IUCN
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