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New York-Barcelona transatlantic race sets sail



New York -- Under a radiant spring sky five state-of-the art race boats set sail out of New York Harbor today leaving behind the cavernous lower Manhattan skyline and setting course on the double-handed IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona transatlantic race.

This 6,000 km regatta across the Atlantic, a preview of the round-the-world Barcelona World Race,  is more than a global nautical challenge. It was also the launch of a unique partnership between the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC) and Barcelona Foundation for Ocean Sailing (FNOB) to raise awareness of the current environmental challenges and threats to the health of the ocean among the sailing community and public at large.

Under the Sailing with an objective initiative the crews of each sailing vessel – who are among the most skilled sailors in world ocean racing – will measure salinity levels and surface temperatures in little-travelled waters along their route using onboard equipment and share them in real time, thus helping to improve meteorological projections. Additionally, the crew of One Planet One Ocean, the vessel serving as a platform for environmental awareness for the partnership, will evaluate water quality and measure the levels of microplastic pollution. Each crew will also deploy an Argo float in remote parts of the ocean not generally accessible to exploratory and other ships between Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn to contribute to climate change research. The global network of Argo floats is a key component of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), an international research network that will share and analyze the open-access data.

© Th.Martinez, Sea & Co.

“We are turning our skippers into agents of ocean science data collection,” said Maite Fandos, Barcelona’s deputy Mayor for Quality of Life, Equality and Sport and President of FNOB during a press conference Friday at the United Nations. 

The data collected “is vital to measure the pulse of our ocean,” Mathieu Belbeoch of IOC-UNESCO said during the press conference. There are currently about 3,600 battery-operated floats in the world's ocean, Belbeoch said, adding there remain many gaps.  "What is important is that these skippers are reaching remote places that don't see many ships,” he said.

Belbeoch also announced at the UN Press conference another important component of the collaboration between FNOB and UNESCO would be the Second International Ocean Research Conference in Barcelona this November. This conference, organized together with The Oceanography Society, will review the latest developments in ocean research from an interdisciplinary perspective encompassing scientific, economic and social aspects. It will highlight the contributions of ocean research to our understanding of pressing issues, such as climate change and ocean governance. The first International Ocean Research Conference was convened in Paris by IOC-UNESCO and The Oceanography Society in June 2005.  

Belbeoch said his hope is that the partnership that will result in “a tangible gain for science providing a promotional and educational dimension,” as well.