Sailing: SailGP boss Sir Russell Coutts doubles down on Christchurch venue, after dolphins halt racing

“SailGP operates all over the world and, no doubt, there are marine mammals in the water in all of the locations we race,” he claimed. “We’ve never had an incident in 35 events.

“Unfortunately, yesterday was another example of there being almost no balance in the decisionmaking – another example of New Zealand being handcuffed by unprecedented layers of bureaucracy and red tape.”

In fact, racing was delayed on the opening day at Christchurch last year, as dolphins were allowed to pass through the course, while NZ driver Peter Burling has told Newshub of at least one other incident involving sealife.

“Everywhere, we have a marine mammal management plan,” he said. “We resailed the final two years ago, because a whale came through the course in San Francisco.   

“We’ve got to be respectful to the environment and if the scientists tell us there’s a risk, we’ve got to listen to them.”

Sir Russell – a Team New Zealand America’s Cup hero – seems to disagree, counting the cost of such precautions and questioning the advice event organisers have received from experts.

“It’s been my experience throughout my long career connected with the ocean that dolphins are extremely intelligent mammals and are inherently aware of boats around them,” he said. “The Hector’s dolphin is not an endangered species, as Otago University professor Liz Slooten recently claimed.

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