Volvo Ocean Race Yachts are Collecting Scientific Data

Leg Zero, Turn the Tide on Plastic compete in the Around the Island Race. Photo by Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race. Aug. 2, 2017

Volvo Ocean Race, 2018—The toughest sailing race in the world will reach Auckland, New Zealand at the end of the month, and during this year’s event—the 13th edition of the round-the-world race—the yachts are equipped with scientific instruments that are monitoring the oceans’ health and collecting meteorological data.

When the sailors of the seven high-tech racing yachts arrive in Auckland, more than the half of their 45,000 nm race is already completed, and no matter who is ahead in the sixth leg of the race, the scientific community will be winning. All yachts are routing meteorological data in real-time to the servers of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other leading global research institutes. Furthermore, the yacht Turn the Tide on Plastic is equipped with a compact, light-weight instrument for underway measurements of the ocean surface.

Leg Zero,Turn the Tide on Plastic compete in the Around the Island Race. Photo by Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race. Aug. 2, 2017

Researchers from the Geomar Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel in Germany installed the sensors in order to continuously collect data from the ocean surface on microplastics, CO2 and other pollutants. The OceanPack RACE technology was developed by SubCtech, and the microplastic analyzer was developed by bbe Moldaenke.

“This gives us a unique global record of the state of the seas,” Dr. Toste Tanhua, project manager for the Volvo Ocean Race scientific program and scientist in Geomar’s department of Chemical Oceanography, said.

Dr. Sören Gutekunst, scientist in Geomar’s department of chemical oceanography, presented results from the project during the Volvo Ocean Race Ocean Summit, held during the event’s Hong Kong stopover.

“This new information confirms the results we had previously collected from European waters and shows that there are consistently high levels of micro plastic in the ocean, and we are also seeing low levels of microplastics in waters close to the Antarctic,” Gutekunst said. “The Turn the Tide on Plastic race team is collecting extremely valuable scientific data that will help us gain a clearer picture of the amount of microplastics in our oceans.”

Due to the successful operation of the scientific equipment, the yacht from team AkzoNobel will be equipped with the instrument in Auckland. This device is designed to operate autonomously even under the harsh conditions of the Southern Ocean. It collects basic chemical and physical seawater data such as pCO2, temperature, salinity, chlorophyll-a, as well as the distribution of microplastic particles in the ocean.

Watch live coverage of the Feb. 3 Dongfeng in-port race in Guangzhou.

The unique project—a combination of sport and science—is a pioneering cooperation that allows scientific data to be collected from remote areas, data that is essential for a better understanding of ocean health, weather and global climate models, with the added benefit of high visibility to political decision-makers and the public during the race.

The Volvo Ocean Race website contains high-resolution images from the racing yachts and live video taken on the yachts en route during the race. You can also track the movement of teams, play an online ocean racing game and watch a full replay of the race around Hong Kong (three hours of video).

Read the scientific data blog created Geomatics, the scientific initiative behind using the sensors.

Read more behind-the-scenes news from the race at

Leg Zero, Plymouth – St. Malo: Drone shots of the start on board Turn the Tide on Plastic. Photo by Jeremie Lecaudey. Aug. 10, 2017

Source: Volvo Ocean Race

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