Sailors and scientists, a winning relationship!

Though the ocean is widely recognised as a source of life, an essential resource for man and a key element in the inner workings of our planet, we still have a huge amount to learn about a vast proportion of it. Faced with ongoing climate change, one of the major challenges relates to understanding and prioritising the effects of human activity on its mechanics to better anticipate their consequences and hence take action to combat them and better protect against them. The skippers fully understand this, which is why a great many of them have already spent several years cooperating with scientists on the matter. As such, there will be two programme highlights for them within the context of the fourth edition of the Guyader Bermudes 1000 Race Brest-Brest: a tour of the Ifremer centre (French Institute for Ocean Science) on Thursday 4 May and a ‘The sea for life’ conference at the Préfecture Maritime (Police Port Authority) in Brest, on Saturday 6 May.

Climate change is also ocean change. To understand the way in which the ocean is changing, it is essential to observe it. To do this, scientists have a wide range of instruments such as drifters, buoys, floats and appropriate vessels. Among the latter, offshore racing boats, and those that make up class IMOCA in particular, are a real boon, even playing a crucial role in assisting scientists with data collection in remote corners of the globe, away from the regular shipping lines at the very least. In Brest, institutions like Ifremer or the Marine Meteorology Centre (CMM) operate and own these precious scientific instruments. The first of these uses onboard sensors on certain boats and collects data relating to salinity, water temperature, CO2, microplastics and the like, to be integrated into international and open-source databases. The second deploys drifting buoys via certain sailors and measures atmospheric pressure in-situ. Among the added benefits of these devices are improvements in weather forecasting, as well as the routing of vessels and maritime safety, a reduction in the carbon footprint of shipping, as well as the monitoring of climate change.

Providing an immersive experience and raising awareness

The 28 sailors signed up for the fourth edition of the Guyader Bermudes 1000 Race Brest-Brest already have their finger on the pulse of these actions, thanks notably a partnership agreement through into 2025 between class IMOCA and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, working closely with the OceanOPS operational centre. As a result, they will be treated to two environmental high points in the pre-race programme. The first, on 4 May between 13:00 and 15:30 hours local time, will enable them to tour the Ifremer centre in Brest-Plouzané and gain valuable insight into oceanic research from the coast to the open ocean, as well as see a presentation of their test tank and Argo float demonstrations, followed by a chance to chat with the site’s associates and scientists. The second, in the form of a round table, will take place on 6 May between 10:30 and 12 noon within the prestigious context of the Préfecture Maritime in Brest in the presence of Vice-Admiral Olivier Lebas. This conference on ‘The sea for life’, presented by Erik Orsenna and Marine Barnerias, alongside recognised scientists like Pascale Lherminier, an oceanography researcher at Ifremer, Tristan Hatin, Mediation and scientific culture manager at Océanopolis, Martin Kramp, vessel coordinateur at OceanOPS, as well as Olivier Desprez de Gesincourt, manager of the European E-SurfMar programe, will enable the sailors to hop aboard a droplet of water and traverse whole continents. This journey of discovery will explain all that the sea has to tell them before they share some quality time with around twenty students from the École des mousses, which trains up 220 youngsters every year, keen to gain new skills and take up a role as part of a French Navy crew.

Offshore racers, a genuine opportunity for scientists

“The objectives for the two operations offered up to the skippers are threefold. It’s about giving these sailors a renewed sense of wonder so that they feel reconnected to their primary relationship with the ocean, making them aware of the role they can play in communicating about the environment, as well as convincing as many teams as possible to champion a cause to benefit science during the Vendée Globe 2024-2025,” notes Claire Vayer, science project coordinator for IMOCA, who points out that when the sailors take action for the common good of society as a whole, they unquestionably make their sports projects even more meaningful. “They can directly benefit from what they contribute: by deploying weather floats for example, they improve their own forecasts during the race. It’s win-win for everyone,” assures the young woman. In this fourth  Guyader Bermudes 1000 Race Brest - Brest, Guirec Soudée (Freelance.com), Antoine Cornic (Human) and Sam Goodchild (FOR THE PLANET) will all take part in deploying new drifting buoys for  Météo France over the triangular course from the north-west tip of Brittany to the Fastnet lighthouse and the Azores archipelago. Perhaps Erik Orsenna, a member of the Académie Française, best encapsulates the spirit of this project when he asks: “What is a sailor?” and answers “A knight of Curiosity and therefore a prospective scientist! Roll on this union of both adventure and Learning.”