The Clipper 2019-20 Race has been engaging in research efforts, collecting ocean and weather data, over the last two legs of the race. The data collection is being utilised around the world and the projects’ aims are to monitor climate change and the impact it is having on the ocean.

The global sailing event travels through some of the most remote places on the planet and therefore is able to collect data that would otherwise be difficult to access. In Cape Town, race organisers collaborated with a team of experts to enable the deployment of drifter buoys on the Southern Ocean Leg from Cape Town to Fremantle.

A drifter buoy is a device which floats on the ocean’s surface and underneath has a canvas tube, called a drogue, that travels with the surface layer of water. Every hour it sends back its GPS position, barometric pressure and sea surface temperature. Once activated, the buoys immediately start transmitting data and all of this information goes into weather forecasting models, to be utilised around the world.

Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) drifter buoys were put aboard four Clipper Race yachts and successfully deployed on Leg 3 by Unicef, Seattle, WTC Logistics and GoToBermuda during the Southern Ocean crossing. They had been donated to the South African Weather Service by NOAA (The United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), who the Clipper Race had previously worked with on the Ocean Acidification Programme during the 2017-18 edition.

The Clipper Race was introduced to the Global Ocean Observing System by Martin Kramp from JCOMMOPS. Martin Kramp, its Ship Coordinator said: “Contributions from volunteers play a growing role in achieving sustained and global marine data coverage. The Clipper Race is a perfect collaborator, not only because the fleet often sails far from regular shipping routes, but also because of the frequent repetitions, and that its ships and race are managed by the same organisation. We hope that this is only the beginning of a long and successful cooperation.”

A further four buoys were deployed during the Australian Coast-to-Coast Leg, from Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam, Seattle, Zhuhai, Qingdao, as the teams raced from Fremantle to The Whitsundays. In addition to the drifter deployments, two of the yachts have been provided with training on a Voluntary Observing Ship Scheme (VOS) in Fremantle. The first two teams to participate in the trial were Seattle and Zhuhai, with the training delivered by Ian Charlesworth from the Australian Meteorological Agency (BOM). The teams have been reporting observations of barometer readings, visibility, cloud formation and sea state every 12 hours.

The Clipper Race hopes to engage in further climate and sustainability research projects as it continues its route around the world.