Boris Herrmann, skipper of Team Malizia, deployed a weather buoy yesterday while closely racing in The Transat CIC solo challenge to New York. The scientific instrument will drift with the Ocean currents and measure data crucial for weather forecasting predictions and climate change monitoring.

hile competing at the highest level in the toughest offshore races, Boris Herrmann and his Team Malizia have a mission to further scientific research, raise awareness for on Ocean protection, and inspire ambitious climate action. This was particularly evident yesterday as the Malizia - Seaexplorer skipper was racing neck and neck with Samantha Davies in The Transat CIC, battling for third place, which he finally grabbed at 16:00 UTC. Two hours later, the German skipper deployed one of the four weather buoys in the race, as he has done many times before. The race deployment project is coordinated through the IMOCA class, Météo France, and OceanOPS.

Boris said in a video recorded yesterday: “Hello, everyone from onboard Malizia - Seaexplorer, it is the 3rd of May, 18:00 UTC. We are currently at 45°W in the North Atlantic in the middle of The Transat CIC. Neck and neck with Sam Davies on Initiatives Cœur, I can sometimes see her through the window. I’m deploying this buoy now; it’s still in its wrapping which I will remove and then throw the buoy overboard.”

The German skipper continued: “With our team, we have deployed several weather buoys and other instruments like Argo floats numerous times in the last years. These buoys are very important for meteorology but also for climatology. So hopefully today we are once again making a useful contribution to science and better understanding climate change as well, as well as improving weather and climate models! So wish me luck; now I climb outside and throw this thing overboard”, concluded Boris with a big smile.

Safety first! Deploying a 25 kg buoy in rough weather conditions is not an easy task

The Malizia - Seaexplorer skipper deployed his weather buoy at 46°W, 2° further west than planned, because the weather conditions were too rough to safely throw a 25 kg buoy overboard. “Safety first!”, said Martin Kramp, the international ship of opportunity coordinator for OceanOPS, who has been working for many years with Boris Herrmann and his Team Malizia. “The longitudes we give to skippers are an ideal position for the buoy to start its journey, but due to manoeuvering or weather conditions, the actual deployment location doesn’t always match perfectly. From a scientific point of view, a deployment a couple of degrees further west is absolutely okay. We are cruelly lacking data in this area anyway to keep up with the requirements of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). There’s always room to deploy a buoy in the Ocean.”

Indeed, these weather buoys are the only means for scientists to obtain permanent in situ atmospheric pressure measurements, which are critically important for weather forecast predictions and to monitor climate change. They also help in improving maritime safety and vessel routing, thus reducing environmental impact.

About 1,300 drifter buoys are currently deployed worldwide, with approximately 230 buoys in the North Atlantic where the IMOCA fleet is racing in The Transat CIC from Lorient to New York. Several hundred new buoys need to be deployed each year to meet up the requirements of the WMO and ensure a minimum level of quality in weather forecasting. 

Mission accomplished! Boris Herrmann smiling into the camera after deploying a weather buoy during The Transat CIC race

© Boris Herrmann / Team Malizia
Alongside Boris Herrmann, three other skippers embarked buoys in this Transat CIC to deploy in an area with scarce observations. Sébastien Marsset on Foussier unfortunately retired on the first day of the race, Tanguy Le Turquais on board LAZARE deployed his yesterday at 43°W, and Guirec Soudée on will deploy one as soon as he reaches his allocated coordinates. 
The buoys typically have a lifespan of about 700 days, 20% of them lasting up to four years, during which they collect data and drift with the sea-surface currents of the Ocean. Their most recent 15-day path can be tracked online with a 24-hour delay, which means that the buoys provide immediate benefits for weather predictions, even for sailors in this race. 
Deployment positions are chosen to ensure the buoys spend maximum time at sea. Therefore, buoys aren’t deployed too close to the Equator because the strong currents in the area could likely propel them towards the shores of Africa or South America within only three weeks. Nearly all weather buoys end up on shore and when found, a phone number on the buoy can be called so that the buoy can be returned.

In addition to research vessels, the buoys are also deployed by merchant ships, sailing expeditions, military ships, fishing vessels, and, of course, offshore racing yachts. Team Malizia has been deploying buoys for many years, with three in 2023 (two during The Ocean Race and one in the Transat Jacques Vabre) and additional deployments planned in 2024 with the upcoming Vendée Globe. Team Malizia’s efforts to assist scientists in furthering research with onboard instruments are now widely recognised. Boris Herrmann is often invited to speak on panels to inspire other skippers to carry scientific equipment such as buoys or the OceanPack, an autonomous laboratory measuring valuable Ocean CO2 data. 

Earlier this year, the importance of even a single measurement campaign by Malizia - Seaexplorer in one race was published in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports. Scientists demonstrated that the data collected by our racing yacht considerably matters when estimating the Ocean carbon sink and fills essential measurement gaps in remote Ocean regions.

Source : Team Malizia