Less than one month from the big launch, the R4WO teams are putting the final touches on the expedition’s preparations. Technical details are adjusted, and bonds between team members grow stronger through training sessions in Lorient (France). Everything falls into place under optimal conditions before the trip to Bordeaux, R4WO’s first stop.
Final Tests: a Complete and High-Performing Scientific Protocol
R4WO aims to conduct the first assessment of plastic pollution in the oceans. To do this, the teams will travel to affected islands and deploy a standardized scientific protocol. This protocol, which is based on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s approach, has two components: treating micro-debris and macro-debris. On February 9th, our teams tested this protocol on a beach in Saint-Sulpice, on the banks of Lake Geneva.
During this day of tests, the R4WO team received advanced training on specialized handling of plastics. First, Professor Luiz Felippe de Alencastro (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne) demonstrated procedures for collecting micro-debris through chemical extraction. These techniques make it possible to separate plastic flakes from sand and water, with simple and effective equipment. Then, the SenseFly team gave a detailed presentation on how the eBee drone should be used. This small, compact drone will address the problem of macro-debris, by creating high-definition mapping of the beaches and offshore areas under study.
Our teams not only received in depth training, but were able to put into practice the techniques introduced. These tests were conclusive, and the teams are eager to deploy the protocol at each of the eleven stops along the expedition.
R4WO will study the beaches of 11 witness islands, which are all located within one of the five existing plastic patches. Some of them are far from civilization, and others inhabited. The latter are entirely dependent on tourism and local activities like fishing.
R4WO: a Scientific and Human Expedition
Although R4WO is first and foremost a scientific expedition, this trip around the world will also be an unprecedented human adventure. In fact, R4WO is also a tightly-knit team who will live together for 300 days, while travelling a little over 40,000 nautical miles, or the equivalent of two trips around the world.
The human challenge will be significant, because this adventure will take place under inhospitable racing conditions. That’s because R4WO will take place aboard a racing trimaran, requiring close proximity among the crew. Although the ship was modified to facilitate scientific work, the “MOD70 Race for Water” multihull was not at all modified for comfort. For example, the six members of the team will share only two sleeping bunks, and there is neither a kitchen nor a bathroom on board.
Mutual aid and support will therefore be necessary to successfully carry out this expedition, and the members of the team have decided to strengthen their relationships before R4WO even begins. They met in Lorient, France, in mid-February, to spend some time together on the trimaran under live conditions. Side by side, they braved the cold Atlantic temperatures to practice maneuvering the “MOD70 Race for Water”. The media team member, who will also be aboard during the whole trip, already snapped some great shots of the team and the trimaran!
The ship is scheduled to leave from Lorient on February 28, and the teams are doing tests aboard the trimaran to get for everything ready for R4WO’s launch in Bordeaux, on March 15.
The adventure is just beginning! More details about Race for Water Odyssey’s departure will be available soon on www.raceforwater.com, as well as on social media pages. And of course, this blog.