NOAA 2001-097
Contact: David Miller


The Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is partnering with the Volvo Ocean Race, providing search and rescue links between the Race Operations Center and the competing yachts beginning with the start of the race on September 23, 2001.

The Volvo Ocean Race, formerly the Whitbread Round the World Race, traces its roots to 1989 and pits yacht crews against each other in a grueling race around the world. This year there are eight racing teams representing seven countries. The teams enter U.S. waters March 2002 and will make two-week port calls in Miami, Fla., and Baltimore, Md.

The Volvo Ocean Race begins in Southampton, England, and finishes June 9, 2002, in Kiel, Germany. It covers 32,500 nautical miles through four oceans, stops in 10 ports and takes place over nine months.

NOAA provides a variety of services to all commercial and recreational vessels, including maritime weather, charting and emergency services. Throughout the course of the race, NOAA will be providing support services that will aid race planning and safety, including navigation and ocean current information, satellite tracking and emergency notification, marine mammal monitoring and weather forecasting.

"We are proud to partner with this prestigious race and offer our resources and expertise to assist with the smooth and safe operation of the race," said Scott Gudes, NOAA acting administrator.

For the duration of the race, NOAA Search and Rescue Satellite (SARSAT) Aided Tracking Program's U.S. Mission Control Center in Suitland, Md., will be providing a specialized satellite alerting service. Each of the eight competing yachts have an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) as part of their suite of safety equipment that can be activated to alert the USMCC if the vessel is in distress.
The distress signal is sent to the closest search and rescue authorities.

"We will immediately contact the race operations center when a vessel is in distress," said NOAA Corps Lt. j.g. Daniel Karlson, SARSAT technical officer. "This allows them to dispatch their own vessels. The other racers would be the closest vessels to provide assistance. The service we're providing them can give them quicker response, in some cases, than the search and rescue teams."

Karlson said NOAA's service was valuable during the Around Alone Sail Race in 1999. One vessel overturned during high seas and the operator could not right it. Because of the early emergency notification, race officials were able to contact other racers in the vicinity who were able to react quickly and go to her aid.

Volvo Ocean Race Director of Race Operations Michael Woods has expressed the need for these specialized services, because the hazards NOAA will warn against can be a major threat to our yachts.

"This race is a real test of man against the elements. NOAA's assistance will help ensure that the racing teams have the information and resources they need to make this a safe and exciting race," Woods said.

The Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources.

To learn more about NOAA, please visit

To learn more about the Volvo Ocean Race please visit:

To learn more about NOAA's Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking please visit: