Science sets sail: New partnership between UNESCO’s IOC and IMOCA Class signed in Paris

 A partnership agreement between UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and the International Monohull Open Class Association (IMOCA) was signed today at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France. Over the next two years, the two partners will carry out joint projects to support marine scientific research and to raise awareness about the importance of ocean science for the protection of the ocean and the sustainable use of marine resources.

The activities will be coordinated by a Joint centre for oceanographic and marine meteorological observing programme support (JCOMMOPS)(link is external) – a collaboration between the IOC and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) – which internationally coordinates about 10,000 in situ ocean observing instruments for the continuous monitoring of the global ocean and the atmosphere above it.

Founded in 1991, the IMOCA (link is external) manages the class of 60-foot (18.28 metres) open monohulls. The aim of the class is to develop the fleet of monohulls and offer its skippers an attractive and coherent sports programme, which includes the well-known races Route du Rhum, Monaco Globe Series and The Vendée Globe, among others. It contributes to the internationalisation of offshore racing and combines the notions of competition, innovation, human adventure and safety. Further, central to IMOCA is how to constantly respect the environment better.

“Our skippers each share a variety of unique experiences; navigating to the most isolated corners of the globe whilst witnessing first-hand our impact on the World’s oceans. As a result, the IMOCA Class understands the urgent need to protect and preserve our seas, making our work with UNESCO’s IOC even more valuable.” The IMOCA class

Navigating in much more agile and nimbler boats than heavier traditional scientific vessels, the competitive sailing boats of the IMOCA class can reach areas of the ocean that are poorly served by regular maritime traffic. Gathering ocean-atmosphere data with on-board instrumentation all along the track and deploying Argo profilers and surface drifters are very valuable contributions to the Global Ocean Observing System(link is external) coordinated by UNESCO’s IOC.

Back in October 2019, navigator Alexia Barrier and co-skipper Joan Mulloy of 4myplanet deployed an Argo float donated by the French consortium Coriolis off the Bay of Biscay, during the Jacques Vabre Transatlantic yacht race from Normandy to Brazil. Other crews (Boris Herrmann and Will Harris of Malizia, Stéphane Le Diraison and François Guiffant of Time For Oceans, and Fabrice Amedeo and Eric Péron of Newrest-Art & Fenêtres) contributed to the collection of scientific data, by taking aboard two weather drifter floats developed by a Copernicus-funded project from EUMETSAT (TRUSTED buoys), and an oceanographic sensor capable of measuring levels of CO2, salinity and surface temperature. The deployment of these observing systems was coordinated by JCOMMOPS (IOC-UNESCO/WMO).

“Everyone has his or her role in the journey to a sustainable ocean, sometimes in distant and less accessible parts of the ocean. The sailing boats of the IMOCA Class will be special contributors to ocean observations, helping to collect crucial ocean data,” commented Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of UNESCO’s IOC to welcome the partnership between sailing and science.

To mark the signing of the partnership agreement, five renowned skippers (Fabrice Amedeo, Alexia Barrier, Boris Herrmann, Stéphane Le Diraison and Paul Meilhat) participated this morning in a “Campus UNESCO” with young students from French schools to share their experience as professional sailors committed to promoting science for the protection of our shared ocean.


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