Science and sailing to collect environmental data during the Vendée Globe race

Oliver Heer Ocean Racing and the Swiss Polar Institute are pleased to announce the start of a three-year collaboration to place world-leading Swiss science on Oliver Heer’s racing sailing yacht IMOCA – Gitana 80 and carry out a data collection campaign during both the training and racing phases of the Vendée Globe challenge between 2023 and 2025.

Using cutting-edge science to collect vital ocean data

The Swiss Polar Institute will place cutting-edge science onboard Oliver Heer's IMOCA and carry out a robust and innovative data collection campaign during both the training and racing phases of the Vendée Globe challenge between 2023 and 2025.

As a major regulator of the global carbon and energy cycle, the Southern Ocean represents one of the key modulators of the global climate system. The Vendée Globe race and campaign represent a unique opportunity for science to access data in understudied yet critical ocean regions.

"The extreme environment of the Southern Ocean still holds many mysteries – especially with regard to its role as a sink for atmospheric CO2. With these novel measurements, we will be able to unlock some of these."

Prof. Nicolas Gruber, ETH Zurich

© Oliver Heer, all rights reserved
© Oliver Heer, all rights reserved

A unique Swiss scientific campaign

Although similar oceanographic  measurements will be carried out by competing sailing yachts, offering inter-comparability and quality control opportunities, the uniqueness of the Swiss science campaign will include:

  • Oceanographic measurements using instruments developed and tested for implementation on sailing yachts. Measurements typically include parameters such as temperature, salinity and dissolved CO2 concentrations.
  • Study of "marine extreme events", notably harmful impacts on marine organisms and ecosystems.
  • Integration of the collected data into scientific publications, including open access data repositories.
  • Swiss-wide collaboration by leading Swiss science groups at ETH Zurich, the University of Bern and the University of Lausanne coordinated by the Swiss Polar Institute.
The three scientists - V4
© synctech
© synctech

The instruments

To carry out the measurements, an OceanPack RACE® underway system manufactured by the German company subCtech will be installed and fitted with the following additional options:

  • RACE CO2 auto-calibration
  • RACE Thermosalinograph
  • RACE GPS marine receiver
© Oliver Heer
© Oliver Heer

Oliver Heer Ocean Racing

Oliver Heer Ocean Racing was established in April 2022 to become a global IMOCA 60 sailing team with Swiss roots. Managed and skippered by 34 year old Oliver Heer, the objective is to compete in the 2024 Vendee Globe, the solo, non-stop, unassisted round the world race that takes place every four years. The next edition starts in November 2024.