Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Kerre Woodham: Blame the dolphin!

Interestingly, Marie has sent in a text immediately on the very thing I wanted to talk about. “Kerre what a third world, Banana Republic New Zealand has become. I was at the SailGP yesterday, the final thank God, not Saturday. It was simply amazing. New Zealand in the last six years has slipped into a pathetic nation of nothingness. Useless do-gooders stripping any opportunity to move forward in what could be one of the most incredible events on the water next to the Americas Cup. Yesterday was simply fantastic. Shame on us for being so short-sighted", says Marie.

Now, normally, Marie, I would agree with you and I'd have some sympathy with Sir Russell Coutts, who’s apoplectic in his monosyllabic kind of way, but he's still extremely cross about the fact that racing was brought to a halt on Saturday. And I do normally have sympathy with people who find themselves suddenly hog-tied by red tape. But when it comes to the SailGP, don't get me wrong, it's a brilliant concept. It is clever, it is fun to watch whether you watch it on the telly or in real life. It is brilliant for the sailors and the spectators alike, as Maria attests in her text. What's not to love when you've got a sailing Grand Prix, that's what it's been described as, and that's what it looks like. Fanging it round a beautiful course, the very best in their field from around the world. Ten international teams travelling the world to the most beautiful places in the world taking each other on in high-speed yacht racing. It's really cool. Totally get that. 

But Sir Russell's now warning that the New Zealand League of SailGP is in doubt after proceedings were brought to a halt in Lyttleton Harbour on Saturday after a dolphin was sighted on the course. So dolphin ahoy, in line with SailGP protocol, racing is delayed to allow marine life to pass through safely. In this case, the dolphin hadn't read the protocol and didn't understand that they were supposed to move through expeditiously and get through to the other side to allow racing to proceed. The dolphin thought well this is cool, or whatever dolphins do without wishing to be anthropomorphic about it. The dolphin thought look at all these people, fantastic, I might hang around and see what's happening. Not realising that while it hung around inside the racecourse arena it meant racing couldn't take place. So everyone's waiting for the dolphin to shove off. The dolphin hadn't read the protocol, so it's still in its little dolphin sanctuary doing what dolphins do. 

And now, Sir Russell is apoplectic in his quiet, monosyllabic way. Coutts says the league has never had an aquatic incident involving an aquatic animal in 35 events around the world. And in his chat with Jason Pine on weekend Sport on ZB over the weekend, he blamed environmentalists, academics, red tape, the Harbour Master and iwi for the hold up and racing.

So they're very clever. We've all seen the Dolphins surfing the wake and dolphin watching is fantastic and it's brilliant. But you signed the protocol. You know that that's what has to happen. That that's why you haven't had an event involving an aquatic mammal, because there is the protocol to allow them to proceed. If you're gonna blame anyone, blame the dolphin for not moving on. 

I understand that you want to find a place where there's great viewing for spectators on land. You know that's part of the thrill of seeing the crowds there. It's great for tourism. I'd hate to see it lost. But is there nowhere else in New Zealand where you could find a suitable venue? And I'm genuinely asking. 

I don't know a lot about yachting. I've only got back into the Americas Cup since they did the foiling, and since it became really exciting and just a brilliant spectacle to watch. But has been nowhere else in the whole of New Zealand, in this island nation that you could hold the SailGP? Why hold the race where the dolphins are? You know there's Auckland - you know they've had the Americas Cup there without there being any issues whatsoever. And I know they go faster in the SailGP. As I understand it, Russell Coutts wanted it at a specific course in Auckland where bystanders and spectators could see the racing from a point on Wynyard Quarter but it hadn't been cleaned up enough to allow spectators to gather there safely or some such. What... you're telling me there's nowhere else in Auckland that you couldn't hold the race safely? 

There's nowhere else in New Zealand you couldn't hold it? I don't know. I'm genuinely asking because I would love to know. It sounds like he's incredibly frustrated with the process from when he began negotiations to try and get SailGP into Lyttelton Harbour. So it sounds like he's revisiting, relitigating the negotiations he had, because none of this is new. You've gone through it all. You've signed the protocols. And a dolphin didn't move out of the way. It's the dolphin who didn't understand. Blame the dolphin!

Kerre McIvor, is a journalist, radio presenter, author and columnist. Currently hosts the Kerre Woodham mornings show on Newstalk ZB - where this article was sourced.


Anonymous said...

But Russell Coutts raises some very real concerns about the overarching role (and increased costs) of iwi and DOC in todays NZ.

Anonymous said...

I have used a power boat for decades in the Hauraki Gulf, at times there are simply 1000s of dolphins in the water in and around multiple fast moving boats. So far not one dolphin has been hit where I have been.
The dolphin play around under and next to the speeding boats. Are Hector dolphins poorly adapted stupid or do we look for an excuse to stop things??

Tom Logan said...

Auckland just couldn't be bothered hosting the event.

A bunch of petty clerks nearly wrecked the event in Lytellton. They could have cancelled the second day too.

An opportunity to showcase our countries beauty and our intellectual and technological capabilities to the world and it could have been totally wrecked.

For one fish.

The Waiheke ferries operate on Auckland Harbour and the inner Gulf at similar speeds as these yachts . Every day of the year. Ten voyages a day that's 3650 a year. For 20 years that 73,00O voyages. Not one dolphin struck. Do we suspend services because some one sees a dolphin ? Or ask them to go at 10 kmh. Almost every time I'm out on the Gulf I see dolphins . And I know of not one case of a dolphin being kit by a hi speed ferry or private launch.

We can't wreck opportunities like this regatta to promote our country to the world. Not for one fish.

We need to house the homeless, feed the hungry, house the homeless. And showcasing our country to the world is certainly 1 good step towards doing that.