Race for Water Odyssey Kicks Off Scientific Sailing Expedition To Safeguard Oceans from Plastic Pollution

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The Race for Water Odyssey (R4WO) will travel over 40,000 nautical miles with 11 scientific stopovers and 9 outreach stops in 13 countries within 300 days. The boat will dock in New York City from April 8-15.

The Race for Water Odyssey kicks off its global expedition to raise awareness for plastic pollution in the oceans on March 15 in Bordeaux, France.

“Marine plastic pollution is alarming and we must quickly find sustainable collection and valorization solutions,” said Marco Simeoni, founder of the “Race for Water” Foundation.

This morning, the “MOD70 Race for Water” boat arrived in Bordeaux with great fanfare for an eventful week. On Sunday, March 15, the crew will raise anchor with the intention of gaining knowledge about waste gyres in less than one year. Even though they constitute a major environmental disaster, these immense pollution zones in oceans are in fact still relatively unknown. The goal of this scientific sailing expedition is to draw up an initial global assessment.

Scientific as well as human, the R4WO also aims to raise awareness about marine pollution—a vital exploit, considering that an estimated 80 percent of the trash polluting the oceans comes from human activities. The initiative begins today; numerous events have been organized in collaboration with Bordeaux authorities and the Maison Ecocitoyenne (i.e. Eco-Citizen House), which will follow the adventure throughout the year.

A team eager to cast off

After several weeks of technical preparations in Lorient (France), the crew headed from Brittany to Bordeaux. The six-member onboard team will be headed by Marco Simeoni, founder of the “Race for Water” Foundation and leader of the expedition. Following an illustrious career in telecommunications, this ocean enthusiast decided to devote himself to water preservation. He emphasizes the importance of taking action, and is optimistic: “Marine plastic pollution is alarming and we must quickly find sustainable collection and valorization solutions. To devise solutions, we must fully understand the problem. I am confident that when we return from this expedition, we will have genuine leads for developing solutions that will preserve our oceans. But drawing up the assessment won’t be the end of our mission; the assessment is merely the first phase of a project that will take several years.”

For his part, Stève Ravussin, famous Swiss navigator and skipper of this expedition, can’t wait to put his seafaring skills to use, and insists that the situation is urgent: “The sea has given me so much; it enabled me to make a name for myself. The time has come for me to return the favor by showing the extent to which the sea is suffering from our actions. We come across countless diverse objects on the high seas. In 2012 during the Krys Ocean Race with this same catamaran, my path was obstructed by a drifting container, so I know what I am talking about. It is important to make this known, and I look forward to starting the R4WO to move things forward. Our training sessions in Lorient went well, and the entire team is ready to tackle the trip around the world.”

Global expedition to safeguard oceans from plastic pollution kicks-off in Bordeaux

To celebrate the start of the global expedition in Bordeaux, “Race for Water” organized a number of activities in collaboration with the City of Bordeaux and the Maison Ecocitoyenne. Mr. Alain Juppé, Mayor of Bordeaux, insisted on conveying his support for the R4WO: “[Marine plastic] pollution affects every region of the world and has long-lasting consequences on marine ecosystems. Action must be taken immediately, and that is why I insisted on supporting the ‘Race for Water Odyssey’, an ambitious expedition that intends to map out and measure the five marine pollution patches across the globe. (…) I am extending my full support to the team of explorers and scientists who are committed to this noble project, vital for the future of the planet.”

The departure of the “MOD70 Race for Water” will take place on Sunday, March 15. The trimaran and her crew will then set sail for Azores (Portugal), the first of the R4WO’s eleven scientific stopovers, where the scientific protocol will be deployed for the first time. From April 8-15, the R4WO will dock in New York City as part of its mission to raise global awareness for plastic pollution in the oceans. Before returning to Bordeaux in mid-December 2015, the crew will sail for 300 days in order to draw up an initial global pollution assessment of the “world’s biggest trash can”.

Follow the R4WO’s progress live at http://www.raceforwater.org/race_for_water_odyssey/map

More information about the program in Bordeaux http://www.raceforwater.org/steps/bordeaux_city

About the Race for Water Foundation

Founded in Lausanne in 2010, the “Race for Water” Foundation’s mission is to preserve our planet’s most valuable resource: water. The foundation is an officially recognized non-profit organization seeking to implement concrete and sustainable actions, focusing on two main themes: protecting oceans and freshwater. “Race for Water” initiates projects aimed at raising awareness and taking concrete action on the ground. These actions are directed at four target audiences: economic players, political bodies, the scientific community, and the general public—with particular emphasis on future generations. “Race for Water” collaborates with organizations such as UNESCO, UNEP, IUCN, WWF, and WBCSD.

In addition, the Race for Water Odyssey benefits from the support of ISAF, Duke University, Oregon State University, senseFly, Swisscom and Swissnex.

Watch a video about the sustainability mission of the Race for Water Odyssey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZCIeFV_Cy4

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Katja Schroeder
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