Monaco Ocean Week (20-25 March 2022)


Friday 25th March. As part of Monaco Ocean Week (20-25 March 2022), Yacht Club de Monaco was in charge of the yachting component during a week organised by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and Monaco Government, in partnership with the Monaco Oceanographic Institute & Monaco Scientific Centre. The purpose was to progress thinking on how to protect the environment.

Oceanographers, captains, expedition leaders, biologists and maritime experts gathered to share their experiences and analyses on the theme ‘Yachting with sense’.The 11th Environmental Symposium was the scene of intense discussions on one of the most vulnerable regions that is attracting increasing numbers of visitors: the Antarctic.

American oceanographer and explorer, Sylvia Earle,  an iconic leader in ocean preservation was on the panel, and who better to kick off the discussions. Referred to in jest as “Her Deepness”, a reference to the many records in exploration she has set during a long career, Sylvia Earle returned to the need to protect the ocean, so vital to life on Earth: “Let’s not take nature for granted,” she reminded the audience.

The last continent to be discovered and then explored, the Antarctic is drawing in the crowds while also being the region most threatened by global warming.



Sophie Gavagnon on M/Y Polarfront (55m), first French captain to the poles, is developing an eco-responsible approach to navigation: “We have solutions, but we must change our habits. Unfortunately, as temperatures rise, we’re going to have more and more areas to discover in this region of the world”.

“During my trip there I saw a beautiful region, magnificent yet fragile,” conceded Rajko Zupan, captain on M/V Marco Polo (176.28m). “We must protect our oceans, not just by relying on technology which is already highly developed. The most important thing is to educate people, sailors and those who sail on our oceans”.

Which is what they are doing with crews like the one on M/Y Queen Aida (50m) as her former captain, Matthias Du Verle, explained: “We wanted everyone to see the effects of climate change and be part of the process [to slow it down]”.

Being able to go to these remote areas remains “a privilege” said Vincent Taillard, captain on Scenic Eclipse (168m) adding that “our way of navigation must adapt to the environment”.

Navigation in these zones requires dexterity, said Estelle Blet, captain of M/Y L’Austral (131m) who reviewed safety conditions to respect pointing out “that in 80% of cases, human error is the key factor behind accidents”. Current systems help minimise the risks and understanding of the seabed but there is a margin of error. “Going to the Antarctic requires very specific skills to avoid accidents and therefore marine pollution problems”.

“During our expeditions we strive to make very discreet approaches to wildlife,” said Captain Etienne Garcia of the M/V Le Commandant Charcot (88.5m).



A continent of extremes, Antarctica has become a magnet for tourists in search of destinations off the beaten track. In 1999, 3,000 people went there. By 2013 that number had risen to near 30,000 and in 2019 over 55,000 walked on the White Continent’s ice pack.

The Antarctic is a faraway destination. It takes a month to get there from Europe and a month to get back. A very vulnerable wildlife and fauna live there,” explained Christian Kempf, founder of Grands Espaces. The future of tourism is in the Antarctic, and it’s sure to develop as it’s THE new destination, and that’s why the approach must be intelligent”.

The Antarctic has the wind in its sails. “Today, we can raise awareness through expeditions that contribute to scientific research,” like those by Pelorus represented by Geordie Mackay-Lewis, co-founder of this British company. All agree it’s a vulnerable destination and humility is essential: “In polar zones, flexibility is the key”.



Holder of eight national records and three Guinness world records, French free diver Aurore Asso dived 112m below the ice in 1 minute 27 seconds with a monofin in one breath. It was in 2015, feats the athlete uses to raise awareness of melting ice and the vital role ice plays in marine ecosystems. “This project linked a desire to accomplish a challenge with the desire to raise public awareness of the need to protect the Arctic environment,” she explained. These records are a pretext to highlight the beauty and fragility of the ice pack, which has been receding over the last 30 years like a global warming marker.

Dr Bonnie E. Gould Rothberg of the Yale School of Medicine sails with her husband on M/Y Gene Machine (55m) and M/Y Gene Chaser (55m) collecting data. They made their first observations in the Arctic: “We witnessed the melting of the ice and wondered what organisms had been trapped and preserved under it until then. Could we learn anything? Which is when we started our project to collect water samples. This furthered our understanding of the impact that polluted (and less polluted) water could have on organisms”.

François Miribel owner of the Boréal 47 Sir Ernst & Fabrice Papazian, YCM member and crew, sailed to the Antarctic Peninsula, reaching Marguerite Bay in February 2022, the sailing yacht gathering data along the way. “We had on board a system to record position, depth and time. All data recorded was put on a USB stick then sent to the relevant organisations to feed into their databases,” he said.




Many racing boats today are fitted with devices to collect data for the scientific community. “During the last edition, we launched our Racing With Purpose programme,” says Anne-Cécile Turner, Director Sustainability of The Ocean Race, a round the world crewed stage race. “It aims to increase our understanding of the oceans, not just for sport but climate regulation, the food and jobs they supply, and the oxygen we breathe”. The objective is simple – to use sport to raise awareness of ocean conservation: “17% of people follow scientific progress, 70% follow sport. The idea is to use sport as a vector of information”.



Sustainability in yacht design is a strange combination,” noted Marnix J. Hoekstra, partner and co-creative director, Vripack yacht design studio. “But we’ve decided from now on that every boat built will have a data collection system that we will share with scientific institutions”.

Increasing number of yachts are designed to operate more responsibly, like M/Y Archimedes (68m) built by Feadship. Farouk Nefzi, its Marketing Director, began his talk with a recording of whales by a boat in the Arctic: “The boat was built in 2008 and the owner wanted to tour the world. M/Y Archimedes has a reinforced hull to sail in all weathers and an ultra-modern stabilisation system to reduce the rolling effect and make cruising more pleasant”. A group of experts has been put together to ensure respectful navigation.



Director of IHO (International Hydrographic Organisation) and former Admiral of the Italian Navy, Luigi Sinapi is behind the “crowd-sourced” bathymetry programme to equip superyachts with data recording equipment: “The yachting family can contribute to the dream of building a map of the world’s oceans and global databases. Let’s call it digital philanthropy. In four years, we’ve received a lot of info, an increase of 14.9% since 2018”.

“Yachting with Sense is a very interesting theme,” according to Michel André professor, bio-acoustician and Director of Applied Bioacoustics at UPC (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya – Barcelonatech): “If there is one sense that living species have in common, it’s hearing and that’s why we can take nature’s pulse. We can use technology to listen to nature, particularly underwater”.

How can superyachts contribute to limiting the impact of noise pollution on the marine environment? “To act in remote regions like the Antarctic or Arctic, we need a database, a baseline, and that’s where their navigations are useful. Sound surveys help us establish a biodiversity inventory”.

A highly successful 11th Environmental Symposium once again brought stakeholders in the yachting chain together, aware that changes in the sector will be made in consultation with the scientific world: an evolution that reflects the goal of the umbrella collective brand, Monaco, Capital of Advanced Yachting launched the same day and attended by HSH Prince Albert II and Monegasque institutions.