» Cornell Sailing strengthens cooperation for ocean monitoring
08.04.2014 - Natural Sciences Sector

Cornell Sailing strengthens cooperation for ocean monitoring

© Moxie Crew of the vessel Moxie about to deploy a drifter during the Atlantic Odyssey.

An accomplished sailor who covered over 200,000 miles over the waves, Jimmy Cornell has seen the Ocean change since he first set off in 1974. His Odyssey sailing events are a way to allow the sailing community to share their passion, give back to the ocean and contribute to educational and scientific efforts. In order to discuss the role the city of Brest can play in his educational sailing events, and how to best contribute to scientific efforts, he met with representatives of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO), the Joint WMO-IOC Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM), Brest métropole océane, the Finistère department and Bretagne region, as well as with members of the Brest scientific and industrial communities at the end of March 2014.

The Odyssey events bring together private vessels and their crews, most often families, in safe fleets to sail across the ocean. They see firsthand the changes that are occurring on our blue planet and participate in science projects and awareness activities. In 2013, 23 vessels flying the flags of 11 nations sailed from Lanzarote (Arecife) to Martinique for a successful pilot project: the Atlantic Odyssey. During their 3,000 mile journey, they deployed 4 autonomous scientific instruments (profiling Argo floats or drifting surface buoys) thus helping JCOMMOPS to maintain a global array of 3,400 Argo floats and 1,250 surface drifters throughout the ocean. Some test ships also gathered and submitted meteorological data in near-real-time for immediate use in weather forecasting.


Children preparing to set off on the Atlantic Odyssey. © Cornell Sailing.

More than 2,000 deployments per year are required to maintain the two global arrays. The data collected makes visible large-scale ocean and climate features and processes that were once hidden to scientists. The network s have enabled new revelations about ocean dynamics that are helping society understand and forecast global climate. The private sailing community often takes less traveled routes on our Ocean, passing through distant areas where almost no in-situ data exists and where no other ships –neither commercial nor research ships– transit. Deploying autonomous instruments in these areas helps to close gaps; it is a great contribution to improve data collection for monitoring and research as well as global weather forecasts, thereby increasing marine safety and increasing the knowledge base on global change.

Individual yachts also sail in these areas, but often without clear schedules or routes and with limited storage capacities. The logistics needed to organize Odysseys, involving the coordination of a small fleet of vessels with a clearly defined route, makes it much easier for the instrument operators. Bringing many ships at the same place and time also means that there is a larger combined storage capacity.

Following-up on the success of the 2013 pilot project, several meetings were held to discuss further collaboration, resulting in a formal cooperation letter that was signed by Wendy Watson Wright, IOC-UNESCO Executive Secretary, and Jimmy Cornell, head of Cornell Sailing, in March 2014. This cooperation will include joint media and educational outreach activities, future deployments of scientific instruments by Odyssey yachts and the acquisition of ocean-atmosphere data during the Odyssey sailing events.

”Jimmy
Jimmy Cornell discusses future cooperation with Wendy Watson Wright, Francesca Santoro (IOC-UNESCO) and Martin Kramp (JCOMMOPS). © UNESCO

Brest was an ideal place to formalize this cooperation: there are numerous synergies with actors in the region. The Observation Programmes Support centre of the Joint WMO-IOC Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMMOPS) is currently relocating to Brest, where several other partners are found, such as the ocean discovery park Océanopolis. Brest métrople océane, the city itself, will play a growing role in the Odysseys organized by Cornell Sailing in collaboration with IOC-UNESCO.

The next Odysseys include the European Odyssey, which will stop in Brest this summer; the Blue Planet Odyssey, a round the world sailing rally aiming to raise awareness of the global effects of climate change in 2014-2017; and the World Odyssey, a round the world race via the three “big capes”: Good Hope (Africa), Leeuwin (Australia) and Horn (South America) in 2016-2017. Most of the itinerary is through data sparse areas, thus creating good opportunities for deployments.

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