The “Race for Water Odyssey” to assess global ocean plastic pollution

Race for Water Odyssey graphic

It’s estimated that over 260 billion tons of plastic are currently polluting our oceans, accumulating within whirling pools of water or gyres. Of these five gyres, only one – the Great North Pacific Gyre (also known as the North Pacific Garbage Patch) – is being actively studied.

Scheduled to launch from Bordeaux, France, the Race for Water Odyssey (R4WO) aspires to reach the 5 gyres to study the accumulating waste in these remote areas. While studies on certain vortexes have already been conducted, this expedition will, for the first time  collect and analyze systematic and comparable data on all 5 of the planet’s gyres..

The high-performance “MOD70 Race for Water” trimaran and her crew will study island beaches located in these vortexes for nearly 300 days. The scientific teams will follow a standardized method for studying microplastics based on an approach used by the NOAA (the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). The R4WO will be able to count on the expertise of institutions such as Duke University and Oregon State University, as well as the marine section of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Innovative techniques such as aerial drones will be used to advance scientific research in this arena. Also teams will meet with local populations to gather information about solutions for mitigating plastic pollution on their coastlines. Sailors, fishermen, authorities, local NGOs and the testimonies of all the local stakeholders will be taken into account.

“Water, and its preservation, is a topic that has been dear to my heart for many years,” said Marco Simeoni, Swiss entrepreneur and chairman of the Race for Water Foundation. “After creating the Race for Water Foundation, I told myself it was absolutely necessary to take action against the disaster of plastic pollution in our oceans. To be capable of devising solutions, I first needed to fully understand the problem. From this arose the ‘R4WO’. I decided to participate in the mission and go aboard the boat to assess the extent of damage for myself,” he said.

A floating boat surrounded by plastic inside an ocean gyre

A floating boat surrounded by plastic inside an ocean gyre

Simeoni will spend nine months aboard the trimaran alongside 5 other crew members, including famous Swiss sailor Stève Ravussin.

“Every year, over 25 million tons of plastic waste end up in the sea. We must act as quickly as possible to preserve the planet’s most important ecosystem,” said Ravussin.

The objective of the expedition is to educate industries, legislators, and the general public, by raising awareness of the crucial issues of ocean preservation. Workshops will be held during stopovers around the world: New York, Hawaii, Valparaiso, Tokyo, Shanghai, Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro, etc. The expedition is actively working to unite a community of “Water Guardians” made up of prominent figures working actively for the cause.

Plastic bottle on Napoleon Beach

The Race for Water Odyssey is the first part of a large project to identify needs and develop solutions to preserve the planet’s water. As a second step, sustainable solutions for collecting floating waste in our oceans will be introduced—still in collaboration with local populations and with foundation partners. The main objective of this second phase will be to develop viable cost-effective waste techniques.

The Foundation’s objective is to bring the general public, institutions, and decision-makers together regarding two essential topics: the preservation of oceans and freshwater.

It will be exciting to see what comes out of this innovative expedition.

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