Thu, Dec 08, 2011 - Page 18 News List

Shark rocks sailing event

AFP, PERTH, AUSTRALIA

Aerial shark patrols have been stepped up at the ISAF World Sailing Championships after a large great white was spotted in the area where the competitors launch their boats each day.

The aerial patrols over the sailing courses were increased yesterday, in response to Tuesday evening’s sighting of the shark in the Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour, where the boat park for the championships is based.

With three fatal shark attacks in the southwest of Western Australia in recent months, organizers were already hypersensitive to the threat posed to competitors prior to the sighting.

Event director John Longley briefed international sailing teams on the sighting yesterday morning.

“The report was made by a ... fisherman who is regarded as a reliable source,” Longley told sailing officials.

“We have informed Western Australian government authorities who will ensure that the usual helicopter shark patrol will concentrate on checking out the Fremantle course area,” he said. “Our course boats and the Fremantle Rescue Service will also be on extra alert after the reported sighting.”

He said the safety of athletes was “paramount.”

“This is part of the reason why we changed the racing rules for the Perth 2011 ISAF Worlds not to penalize sailors who need assistance to get back into their boats after a capsize,” he said.

Under the new rules, official boats are now allowed to intervene if sailors are separated from their boats.

“If someone is separated, 10, 15, 20 meters away from their boat, the official boats can pick them up and put them back on and continue racing,” tournament manager Skip Lissiman said before the event.

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