Biodiversity also runs The Ocean Race

The sailboats that participate in the great regattas are not painted on the inside.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
25 May 2023 Thursday 22:53
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Biodiversity also runs The Ocean Race

The sailboats that participate in the great regattas are not painted on the inside. The reason is to save the weight of paint when it comes to flying over water. For this reason, bringing a 40 kg microscope on board the Biotherm Imoca to capture high-resolution images of microscopic particles such as phytoplankton during The Ocean Race is a declaration of principles. “It is sailing with a cause”, says Judit de la Fuente, general director of Biotherm in Spain and Portugal.

“The brand has been closely linked to sustainability since its origins. We come from the water, because our main ingredient is the thermal plankton that gives rise to the Life Plankton in our formulas, and our commitment is to give back to the marine environment everything it has given us”, he assures.

Biotherm and Paul Meilhat, skipper of his Imoca, have joined forces with the Tara Ocean Foundation to collect samples and data on ocean biodiversity while competing in the grueling The Ocean Race, a seven-stage world tour that started on January 15 in Alicante and will end on July 1 in Genoa (Italy). The route passes very south of the three great capes of the planet –Buena Esperanza; Leeuwin, southwestern Australia and Cape Horn – and includes remote areas that are inaccessible to the foundation's research vessel.

“From the beginning, we agreed that the Biotherm Racing program has to be about more than just sailing. We want to win, but also have a bigger social impact, make people more aware of the problems facing the ocean today. As a sailor, you see the impact of climate change with your own eyes,” explains Meilhat. “We know that the application of this research project in the Imoca can affect our performance, but for us it is not negotiable. To protect something, you first have to understand it,” he proclaims.

The state-of-the-art automated microscope aboard Imoca can produce up to 30,000 high-resolution images per hour and will take small water samples from little-studied areas to create geolocated datasets of microscopic marine life. “Analyzing and learning more about phytoplankton (the plankton found on the surface of the oceans) is essential to understand how to create resilience in the face of future climate changes,” says Judith de la Fuente.

“It has a key role, because it is responsible for sustaining all life in the sea, but it is also capable of absorbing 25% of the CO2 produced by humans, which affects the temperature balance on Earth,” he points out.

“Now, the information we have on the state of the phytoplankton is the image transmitted by satellites of the color of the ocean. The data from the geolocated samples will make it possible to compare results between what the satellites perceive and reality”, explains De la Fuente. They will also add to the ongoing research of the Tara Foundation, which has had a similar device on its ship since 2013, to better understand the future of ocean health and improve its preservation.

Biotherm made its commitment to the ocean official in 2012, with the creation of the Water Lovers sustainability program, which today proudly displays its logo on the sail of its Imoca. The brand collaborates with various specialized NGOs as speakers for initiatives such as Mission Blue Hot Spots or the Oceanographic Institute of Monaco. A close challenge? “That in 2030 all our packaging is 100% recyclable”, affirms the Biotherm board of directors. In Spain, its Clean Rivers, Save Oceans campaign is underway, which began in Jarama. "Two thirds of the pollution that reaches the sea is produced in rivers," says Judith de la Fuente. Worst: "What look like giant tree roots are actually disposable wipes," she describes.