Dolphins at risk for SailGP New Zealand

Published on March 16th, 2023

When all nine SailGP teams compete in the penultimate event of Season 3 on March 18-19, the smallest and rarest marine dolphins in the world may be there too. The risk to the Hector’s dolphins, known to frequent the natural amphitheater of Lyttelton Harbour, have raised concerns in Christchurch, New Zealand.

An unredacted version of the SailGP Marine Mammal Management Plan reveals there is a risk some will be killed, which prompted the development and deployment of two acoustic monitoring hydrophone buoys into the racing area to detect the presence of Hector’s dolphins in the harbor.

As the plan had initially been released with much of the content blacked out, there appeared to be an effort to conceal the situation. More so, one expert believes it is possible for the dolphins, which have an inquisitive nature, to be attracted to the Acoustic Deterrent Device (ADD).

An excerpt which had been blacked out stated:
“Marine mammals already face risks year-round within Whakaraupō/Lyttelton Harbour but the risk level will be heightened by SailGP’s training and racing activities. The SailGP Grand Prix will lead to increased boat traffic in the area on the practice, rehearsal and racing days, increasing the risk of vessel strike to marine mammals, particularly upokohue/hector’s dolphin.”

SailGP fast-tracked the introduction of this technology which is essentially an underwater acoustic surveillance system. Powered by artificial intelligence, the system uses passive and active acoustic monitoring to detect the underwater communication and clicking of dolphins.

There will also be artificial intelligence powered tracking drones used for aerial surveys along with observers on two boats and nine on-land stations tasked with finding and tracking marine mammals in the area.

The ADD range spans hundreds of meters which extend well outside the course limits, though it is not known what actions by SailGP will occur if there is a detection. In the event of an actual sighting, racing will be immediately paused and will not resume until 10 minutes after the dolphin is confirmed to have cleared the course.

Racing will take place 15:00-16:30 NZDT (22:00-23:30 EDT on March 17-18). For crew lists, click here.

SailGP informationNew Zealand detailsSeason 3 scoreboardYouTubeHow to watch

Season Three Standings (after nine of 11 events)
1. Australia (Tom Slingsby), 76 points
2. New Zealand (Peter Burling), 64 points
3. France (Quintin Delapierre), 63 points
4. Great Britain (Ben Ainslie), 61 points
5. Denmark (Nicolai Sehested), 57 points
6. United States (Jimmy Spithill), 52 points
7. Canada (Phil Robertson), 49 points
8. Spain (Jordi Xammar/Diego Botin), 27 points
9. Switzerland (Sebastien Schneiter), 25 points

• Spain SailGP Team: Docked two points in Season Championship for four-point penalty at Plymouth
• Switzerland SailGP Team: Docked two points in Season Championship for four-point penalty at Saint-Tropez
• United Stated SailGP Team: Docked four points in Season Championship for eight-point penalty at Saint-Tropez
• New Zealand SailGP Team: Docked two points in Season Championship for four-point penalty at Dubai; Docked two points in Season Championship for four-point penalty at Singapore

2022-23 SailGP Season 3 Schedule
May 14-15, 2022 – Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess
June 18-19, 2022 – United States Sail Grand Prix | Chicago at Navy Pier
July 30-31, 2022 – Great Britain Sail Grand Prix | Plymouth
August 19-20, 2022 – ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix | Copenhagen
September 10-11, 2022 – France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez
September 24-25, 2022 – Spain Sail Grand Prix | Andalucía – Cádiz
November 12-13, 2022 – Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas
January 14-15, 2023 – Singapore Sail Grand Prix
February 18-19, 2023 – Australia Sail Grand Prix | Sydney
March 18-19, 2023 – New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch
May 6-7, 2023 – United States Sail Grand Prix | San Francisco (Season 3 Grand Final)

Format for 2022-23 SailGP events:
• Teams compete in identical F50 catamarans.
• Each event runs across two days.
• There are three qualifying races each day for all nine teams.*
• The top three teams from qualifying advance to a final race to be crowned event champion and earn the largest share of the $300,000 prize money to be split among the top three teams.
• The season ends with the Grand Final, which includes the Championship Final Race – a winner-takes-all match race for the $1m prize.
* Qualifying schedule increased from five to six races at France SailGP.

For competition documents, click here.

Established in 2018, SailGP seeks to be an annual, global sports league featuring fan-centric inshore racing in some of the iconic harbors around the globe. Rival national teams compete in identical F50 catamarans for event prize money as the season culminates with a $1 million winner-takes-all match race.

Source: Ortega Daily Times, SailGP

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