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SailGP Christchurch: Day 1 ends with no racing due to dolphin presence in race area

by Richard Gladwell Sail-World NZ 22 Mar 21:30 PDT
New Zealand SailGP Team and Australia SailGP Team on the water in front of spectators in the grandstand ahead of racing on Race Day 1 of the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix in Christchurch. March 23, 2024 © Chloe Knott/SailGP

Day 1 of racing in SailGP Christchurch failed to get underway after a protected dolphin species entered the No-Go zone on Lyttleton Harbour.

Three races were due to be sailed. However, the ten-boat fleet stayed in their warm-up phase.

Despite a 10kt breeze, racing was halted before it started at the Scheduled Start of 1530 hrs, and the competitors sailed slowly in the Lyttelton Harbour, waiting for the local residents to swim away. It was not to be, and three races were unable to be sailed under the Protocols under which the SailGP event can be staged in what is a shipping port and marine mammal sanctuary.

Racing, on maybe a revised program, is expected to be attempted tomorrow, Sunday; however, a similar outcome could well occur.

Even so, today's events have likely prevented SailGP from ever being sailed in Lyttelton Harbour again without a financial underwrite.

News sources said refunds would be offered. Only a few seats remained unsold for Sunday. At around $130 each, they valued today's 20,000-capacity crowd at $2.5 million in ticket sales.

Over the five years it has been in operation, SailGP has gone to extreme lengths to avoid losing sailing days due to a shortage or surplus of wind and boat damage. While it may have been an acceptable overhead to lose a single race today, losing all three races, with the prospect of more to come, the rule-makers must bear the financial cost, or the promoters take their event elsewhere.

See previous story on SailGP's and major sailing events future in New Zealand

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