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CLS on watch for skippers

(Nov 2012) Once again, the lookouts for the Vendée Globe, single-handed, round-the-world yacht race will be standing watch some 800 km above the skippers. These hi-tech satellites, shining like small stars in the night sky, act as telescopes for the teams at CLS (Collection and Location by Satellite), a CNES subsidiary based at Brest and Toulouse.

CLS, the original operator of the Argos system, is also expert in space-based oceanography, radar surveillance and satellite-based positioning. Since last May, it has been inspecting the route that the participants in the Vendée Globe will be following. With the help of satellite radar imagery, CLS oceanographers and image-analysis experts have spotted the largest icebergs, which will be a significant risk to the skippers as they navigate the southern oceans next December and January. This valuable information has helped the Race Management, working closely with CLS, to set the route and select the most suitable iceberg-free routes around the Antarctic.

From the moment the first skipper arrives in waters where icebergs are a threat, more than a hundred radar images, 500 kilometres square, will be acquired by Canadian MDA satellites along the route followed by the fleet, for processing and interpretation by CLS analysts. This will enable the Race Management to warn the skippers if the level of risk becomes too high and, if necessary, move the “Ice Gates” further north to make the route safer.


450 employees around the world, 16 offices and subsidiaries, projected turnover of €80 million for 2012, 80 instruments carried on 40 satellites, 2 centres for the acquisition, processing, interpretation and distribution of satellite data, 60 oceanographers and 25 radar experts.

Source CLS