SARASOTA – Becky Sinnreich is the lead marine observer of Powerboat P1 at the Grand Prix.
“We’re watching out for dolphins, sea turtles, manatees, and technically the small-toothed swordfish but, we don’t really expect to see any of those,” she said.
She and her team of five marine observers are making sure the powerboats don’t hurt any marine animals.
“I’ll be in a helicopter all day and my team will be on boats, and if we see anything within 500 feet of the race course, the race shuts down and we wait for the animal to move out on its own,” Sinnreich said.
In an emergency, she and her team can act quickly.
“We have direct contact with race control, so it’s an instant shut down, but what we do is we clear the area beforehand,” Sinnreich said.
They usually don’t run into any surprises.
“Part of the beauty of this area – the water is so crystal clear,” Sinnreich said.
If they were to strike an animal, however, a strike at 30 miles per hour is four times the impact of a strike at 15 miles per hour.
The boaters are driving at 70-100 miles per hour.
“That would be a very bad crash,” Sinnreich said. “It would obviously not only kill the animal, but it would destroy the boat, injure the driver, possibly kill the driver, so it’s a serious concern for both the animals and the people involved.”
It’s not just the boaters that can do harm. Racegoers need do their own part to make sure marine animals stay safe, too.
“One thing I encourage everyone to do is bring your own trash bag, and make sure that trash bag doesn’t blow away because plastic bags are one of the #1 killers of the animals out there;they mistake them for jellyfish,” Sinnreich said.
You can also decrease your chances of disrupting a turtle nest by avoiding the beach when the sun is down.
“This area is beautiful and its all thanks to a whole ecosystem working together,” Sinnreich said. “So you have to appreciate the animals, the dunes, and everything that needs to be protected in order to keep this area as beautiful as it is for years to come.
Sinnreich said she and her team are always looking for volunteers to meet with them and start the training process to become a marine observer.