Race for Water Odyssey, 1st year: Scientific appraisal and perspectives  

Geared up for scientific expeditions, the Race for Water vessel underwent a complete refit in 2016 in order to offer optimal working conditions on-board. Thanks to her 90m2 dedicated to science, her stability and her self-sufficiency in terms of energy, the catamaran is able to host teams of five to seven researchers aboard, as well as students. Since her departure in April 2017, the Race for Water platform has welcomed over 23 researchers, including 12 scientists from the European JPI Oceans programme with the collaboration of local scientists in Bermuda (in June-July 2017), in Cuba (in August 2017) and in Guadeloupe (October 2017).

Kim Van Arkel, scientific consultant to the Race for Water Foundation:

Set up in 2011, JPI Oceans is a strategic programme geared towards coordinating marine research and responsible for the launch of the “Ecological Aspects of Microplastics” programme grouping together 4 projects to assess the impact of microplastics in marine ecosystems, including EPHEMARE and WEATHER-MIC

EPHEMARE, led by Professor Ricardo Beiras (University of Vigo, Spain), is studying the eco-toxicological effects of microplastics on marine ecosystems. Within the context of this project, samples were taken of microplastics at the water surface, sediments, plankton and endemic marine organisms (fish, crustaceans and bivalves…) across two sites in Bermuda (Whale Bone Bay and Well Bay) and in Guadeloupe (Petit Bourg and Capesterre) by 9 European scientists (from the University of Bordeaux in France, the University of Antwerp in Belgium, the University of Vigo in Spain, and the Marche Polytechnic University and the CNR-ISMAR Institute of Marine Sciences Marine in Italy) in collaboration locally with Anne Hyde from Keep Bermuda Beautiful and Dr Struan Robbie Smith in Bermuda, followed by Dr Soazig Lemoine from the University of the French West Indies in Guadeloupe. Different forms of analysis (dissection, identification, chemistry and toxicity) regarding samples and microplastics taken during these two campaigns are currently underway in 4 European universities, which are partnering the EPHEMARE project.

WEATHER-MIC led by Dr Annika Jahnke (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) Leipzig, Germany) and Dr Hans Peter H. Arp (NGI (Norwegian Geotechnical Institute) Norway) is aiming to understand the various stages of aging of microplastics and the effect that this has in the marine environment. Dr Hans Peter H Arp and 2 scientists from the NGI also involved in the project took a series of samples offshore of the Cuban coast and as far as Havana with the support of Prof Carlos Manuel Alonso Hernandez and 6 other Cuban scientists from the CEAC.


The samples taken at the surface of the water, at different depths in the head of water and in the submerged sediment have been split between the scientists from the NGI and the CEAC with a view to producing a shared analysis. Certain samples (the most interesting) will be sent to other teams from the WEATHER-MIC project so they can take a closer look at the signs of aging based on the “fingerprinting of aging” developed by the JPI Oceans network.”

So what’s next?

Kim Van Arkel continues: “New scientific missions are in the pipeline aboard the Race for Water vessel, starting with the samples of plastic particles taken by the crew while sailing from Concepcion (Chile) to Tahiti (French Polynesia) for the “Plastisphère” project led by Dr Linda Amaral Zettler and Dr Erik Zettler, both researchers at the NIOZ, the Royal Netherlands Institute for Marine Research. This project explores the communities associated with the plastic particles floating on the surface of the ocean. Our journey into the South-East Pacific, where few samples are taken today, is very important for this research. Other scientific missions will also be welcomed aboard the Race for Water platform and these will be unveiled as the vessel is making headway.”

10,000 miles on the clock, 6,000 guests welcomed aboard, 7 intense stopovers  and the arrival of the watchmaker “BREGUET” as main partner…  The Race for Water Odyssey celebrates its 1st anniversary! 

In 2010, the Swiss entrepreneur Marco Simeoni created the Race for Water Foundation. Passionate about the sea, in 2015 he decided to launch an initial scientific and environmental expedition, the Race for Water Odyssey, to review the global situation regarding the plastic pollution of our oceans. The findings are both clear and alarming in that there is no such thing as ‘plastic islands’ and venturing out to collect the plastic waste at sea is utopian to say the least. Indeed, at the heart of the oceans, a ‘soup’ of microplastic floats around with the oceanic gyres. “We very quickly realised that the solution lies on land. It is absolutely imperative that we prevent plastic waste from reaching the oceans”, explains Marco Simeoni.

One year ago, on 9 April 2017, the Race for Water catamaran set sail around the world on a new five-year odyssey to offer up solutions regarding the conservation of the oceans. “In 2015, we acknowledged that we were powerless in the face of the sheer scale of the problem with plastic pollution of the oceans. With this 2017-2021 Odyssey, aboard the largest vessel in the world to be powered by a combination of solar-hydrogen-kite energy, we are keen to show that thanks to innovative technologies there are lasting solutions for conserving the oceans.”

Between 2017 and 2021, Race for Water is circumnavigating the globe with around 35 stopovers coloured by the following objectives:
– participating in major international events to educate the greatest number of people about the urgent need to conserve the oceans. (The America’s Cup, the Olympic Games in Tokyo and the Universal Exposition in Dubai)

– visiting islands and large coastal towns, both victims and the source of the plastic pollution of the oceans, in order to raise awareness among local populations and put forward solutions to prevent plastic waste from reaching the waterways and hence the oceans.

– hosting scientific missions aboard the vessel to further understanding about the consequences of marine plastic contamination.

Review of year one of the Race for Water Odyssey:

Since casting off from Lorient (France) in April 2017, the Race for Water catamaran has covered nearly 10,000 nautical miles (9,656nm to be precise) in her 104 days at sea, which have led her from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, where she is currently on stopover in Lima.

In the space of a year, there have already been 7 stopovers (Madeira, Bermuda, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Panama and Peru) and 3 scientific missions, with 23 researchers of 6 different nationalities and 6,000 official guests, including over 255 political decision-makers, all of whom have been welcomed aboard the Race for Water Foundation’s ambassador vessel in order to discuss the conservation of the Oceans as well as the possible solutions to combat plastic pollution.

In this way, the objectives to LEARN and SHARE, which the Foundation set itself have been reached at every stopover venue. The same is true of the ACT element with the promotion through local decision-makers of high-temperature pyrolysis, a technology capable of transforming plastic waste into electricity. Giving value to this material will enable street collectors to be paid, thus encouraging them to pick up more plastic. The upshot of this approach is a world in which today’s waste will be tomorrow’s resource.

BREGUET embarks with Race for Water in the conservation of the Oceans:

The first year of this odyssey has also been coloured by the arrival of a title partner alongside the Foundation’s teams: the BREGUET company.

Marco Simeoni, President of the Race for Water Foundation: “BREGUET’s commitment alongside our Foundation for the next four years is a powerful symbol of its involvement in the cause to conserve the Oceans. This collaboration comes as fantastic recognition for the Race for Water teams, who work on all the seas of the globe on a daily basis. Through this partnership, the impact of our actions will be further reinforced, which we’re absolutely delighted about.”

The Race for Water Odyssey, with the support of BREGUET and bolstered by the enthusiasm felt for the project at every stopover, is continuing its journey in 2018 to Chile (Valparaiso and Concepcion in June), Robinson Island and Easter Island (early September) before reaching French Polynesia in October and culminating in Fiji for the end of year festivities.


Franck David, Executive Chairman of the Race for Water Odyssey: “This Odyssey is unique! Through its duration, over 5 years around the world! Through its encounters, right up close and personal to the local populations, entrepreneurs and decision-makers! Through its vision and its objectives, with a strong commitment to taking action and with the conviction that solutions do exist! Through its human and technological challenge with its Land and Sea-based teams, who day in day out further the cause for the conservation of the oceans on a vessel powered by 100% renewable energies!

Jean-Marc Normant, Captain and Technical Director:Objectively, when we began the Race for Water Odyssey in Lorient in 2017, there were a lot of unknowns regarding our catamaran. With the passing miles we’ve discovered this boat, which is very special in terms of her energy management. With use she’s proven to be very pleasant and we can navigate the oceans with confidence. Race for Water is an incredible work platform for those scientists who get a chance to come aboard, as well as for those of us who live aboard her and host lots of visitors during the stopovers. Over the course of this first year, we’ve done a fair amount of work on our means of propulsion, be it the kite or the hydrogen, which has further improved the vessel’s qualities and there are still over 20,000 miles to go until we reach the end of the Odyssey in 2021!”

Camille Rollin, head of the Foundation’s ACT programme: “It’s in Lima that we celebrated the 1st anniversary of what is a truly exceptional human adventure. This expedition is primarily one of hope. Every day we meet people like us, seeking to show that solutions do exist and that it is through action and collaboration that we will succeed in countering the disasters caused by plastic pollution of the oceans. We’re counting on you!”

Kim Van Arkel, scientific advisor : “Since our departure in April 2017, the Race for Water platform has hosted over 23 researchers, including 12 scientists from the European JPI Oceans programme with the collaboration of local scientists, Bermudians (in June-July 2017), Cubans (in August 2017) and Guadeloupeans (October 2017). Set up in 2011, JPI Oceans is a strategic programme geared towards coordinating marine research and responsible for the launch of the “Ecological Aspects of Microplastics” programme grouping together 4 projects to assess the impact of microplastics in marine ecosystems, including EPHEMARE and WEATHER-MIC.”

Part one of the Lima stopover complete,  now it’s over to the ACT team!

Race for Water made landfall on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, on 15 March 2018, and will continue to be anchored off the Yacht Club de La Punta in Callao through until 20 May 2018, at which point she will cast off for Valparaiso in Chile. Part one of the stopover has seen multiple exchanges and lots of opportunities to learn about the situation regarding plastic pollution in Peru. Furthermore, the Race for Water team in charge of putting in place projects to recover waste is remaining on site for the next two months to continue to give concrete expression to the discussions already initiated.

Lima 1:  SHARE (on-board tours and exhibition)

Part one of this stopover concluded late last week with a Beach Clean Up in collaboration with the NGO WWF, which gathered together 400 volunteers and enabled 2 tonnes of waste to be recovered!

As is the case with every one of the stopovers on the Race for Water Odyssey, the Foundation’s teams are rallying together to raise awareness among the greatest number of local people, from students, to decision-makers, representatives, entrepreneurs and environmental protagonists. We have to admit that the enthusiasm drummed up by the presence of the Race for Water catamaran has been incredible. We’ve hosted and welcomed nearly 400 children aboard the boat, over 350 local entrepreneurs, 27 attendees for the “Plastic Waste to Energy” workshop and 35 politicians, who hosted an inter-ministerial committee on-board to coordinate the establishing of environmentally-friendly projects for the conservation of coastal areas. It was the perfect opportunity for our President, Marco Simeoni and the Minister of the Environment Ms Elza Galarza to meet up.

Camille Rollin, head of ACT for the Race for Water Foundation: “The Peruvians have shown such great enthusiasm for the project! The welcome has been fantastic! Unfortunately, we cannot accept all the requests we receive each day. However, we are very happy with this first part of the Lima stopover, where the emphasis was mainly on education as we welcomed nearly 400 students aboard of varying ages. The Clean-Up operation on Agua Dulce beach, which was organised by the WWF to celebrate our visit to Chorrillos, enabled 400 super motivated volunteers to come together to pick up nearly two tonnes of waste in a matter of hours. That demonstrates two things: there is still a huge amount of educational work to be done on the ground so that the local population feels more concerned about the conservation of its environment, but also that a growing section of this same population is seeking to broaden its awareness.”


Lima 2: ACT (presentation of the solutions)

Numerous local protagonists, notably entrepreneurs and social investors, who are committed to sustainable projects which provide answers to the problems they face in their home countries, like that of plastic pollution, came to chat with the team aboard Race for Water. It is with this smaller latter group, which is fully dedicated to the implementation of energy recovery projects involving plastic waste in Peru, that work will continue for the next two months.

Frédéric Sciacca, Head of ACT in Lima working on behalf of the Foundation: “Within the context of the ACT programme and the search for solutions, we’re now going to focus our attention on the methods of collection, management and recovery of plastic waste on a local level. The context of Lima will enable us to get a better understanding of the unofficial collection mechanism, which is extremely dynamic in Peru. We will also need to meet with numerous protagonists from public and private associations in order to identify where the implementation of our model’s complete value chain will make the most sense and have the most positive impact.”

 The Foundation’s ACT team comprises Camille Rollin, Frédéric Sciacca, as well as a native Peruvian for this stopover, Jimena Collantes-Ortiz, who is very involved in life in Lima: “As a Peruvian, it’s an honour to be part of the Lima stopover. We’re working with a highly professional team and one that is passionate about the work we’re doing. It’s a privilege to have a vessel as unique as the Race for Water catamaran here. I’m convinced that the answer to my country’s needs is embodied in the solution put forward by Race for Water. We’ve already had a chance to contact the key protagonists involved in the implementation of the Waste to Energy project. To my mind, we have a great potential to incorporate this here and my wish, as ambitious as it is, is to be able to have a serious impact in every corner of Peru. The best is yet to come.”