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Science sets sail: New partnership between UNESCO’s IOC and IMOCA Class

12 Feb 2020

A partnership agreement between UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and the International Monohull Open Class Association (IMOCA) was signed at the end of January, at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France. Over the next two years, the two partners will carry out joint projects to support marine scientific research and to raise awareness about the importance of ocean science for the protection of the ocean and the sustainable use of marine resources.

The activities will be coordinated by a Joint centre for oceanographic and marine meteorological observing programme support (JCOMMOPS)  – a collaboration between the IOC and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) – which internationally coordinates about 10,000 in situ ocean observing instruments for the continuous monitoring of the global ocean and the atmosphere above it. 

Founded in 1991, the IMOCA manages the class of 60-foot (18.28 metres) open monohulls. The aim of the class is to develop the fleet of monohulls and offer its skippers an attractive and coherent sports programme, which includes the well-known races Route du Rhum, Monaco Globe Series and The Vendée Globe, among others. It contributes to the internationalisation of offshore racing and combines the notions of competition, innovation, human adventure and safety. Further, central to IMOCA is how to constantly respect the environment better.

Navigating in much more agile and nimbler boats than heavier traditional scientific vessels, the competitive sailing boats of the IMOCA class can reach areas of the ocean that are poorly served by regular maritime traffic. Gathering ocean-atmosphere data with on-board instrumentation all along the track and deploying Argo profilers and surface drifters are very valuable contributions to the Global Ocean Observing System coordinated by UNESCO’s IOC.

To mark the signing of the partnership agreement, five renowned skippers (Fabrice Amedeo, Alexia Barrier, Boris Herrmann, Stéphane Le Diraison and Paul Meilhat) participated in a “Campus UNESCO” with young students from French schools to share their experience as professional sailors committed to promoting science for the protection of our shared ocean.