SenseOCEAN: Sailing the Vendée Globe

In a unique opportunity to test the Lab-On-Chip (LOC) phosphate sensor under extreme conditions, one of our SenseOCEAN researchers, Dr. Max Grand will enlist the help of French sailor, Nicolas Boidevézi, competing in one of France’s most challenging offshore sailing races, the Vendée Globe.

Dissolved phosphate in surface waters regulates phytoplankton growth and plays an important role in the cycling of carbon in the upper ocean. However, knowledge of the distribution of phosphate in the remote ocean is incomplete, due to the difficulty and expense of reaching remote regions and making the measurements – one of the key drivers behind the SenseOCEAN project and its aim to produce low cost, in situ biogeochemical sensors.

During the 2016 edition of the Vendée Globe, which starts in the bay of Les Sables d’Olonne, France, a fully autonomous LOC phosphate sensor, developed at NOC and the University of Southampton, will be deployed onboard the 60 foot IMOCA sailing boat of Nicolas Boidevézi.

Nicolas's boat

Nicolas will take 80-100 days, depending on weather conditions, to sail down the Atlantic, cross the Southern Ocean via the three major capes of Good Hope, Leeuwin and Horn and back up the Atlantic returning to Les Sables d’Olonne (see route here). This provides a unique scientific opportunity to collect data from remote stretches of the open ocean rarely visited by research vessels. The aim is to monitor surface phosphate concentrations at least four times per day along the course. Data will be sent back to NOC via satellite comms each day.

LOC sensor

Installation and preliminary sea trials of the phosphate sensor will take place during Spring/Summer 2016 in readiness for the 6th November race start. During the race, Max will write a blog, summarising trends observed in the phosphate concentrations in relation to the geographic position of Nicolas. Check back for a link to the blog closer to the time.

Further information (in French) :