No Excuse for Another America's Cup Death
2013-08-08 Released

By Lynn Fitzpatrick

On the day before the New York Times published an article about the deaths of manatees, dolphins and pelicans in Florida, I sent the following letters of recommendation to America's Cup executives along with an evaluation by a marine surveillance specialist. The letter was forwarded to many organizations, including the US Coast Guard and NOAA Fisheries and San Francisco Bay and Monterey Bay area groups supporting healthy environmental practices and sustainability. Of course, the letter was forwarded to the media.

I understand that these issues were addressed at a meeting or press conference on Saturday, August 10, 2013. Sadly, none of the addressees - Messrs. Bajurin, Barclay, Ehman, Murray, Troublé, nor Honey ever acknowledged the receipt of the correspondence from me or had the consideration to reply.
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Gentlemen:

How are you?

I have it on good authority thatthe America's Cup training and racing activities on San Francisco Bayhave not only caused damage to the AC72's they have also killed membersof the marine mammal and large fist population drawn to San FranciscoBay's rich marine ecosystem.

You may already be applying yourselves toaddressing this situation, which is potentially harmful to marine lifeand could also result in the fatality of more of the world's "BestSailors" while sailing the "Fastest Boats". In that case, my apologies for raising an alarm with others who are in a position to assist with onthe water remedies or media outreach.

Thank you for your consideration,

Lynn Fitzpatrick
Become an Active Citizen

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August 7, 2013

Mssrs. Bajurin, Barclay, Ehman, Murray, Troublé, and Honey

America’s Cup Event Authority/America’s Cup Race Management/Louis Vuitton

Pier 23

San Francisco, CA 94111

RE: Reducing the Marine Mammal and Large Fish Maiming and Killing by AC34 Activity

On behalf of those who care about the planet and our marine environment, I hope that you will consider the issues and recommendations in this document. I also hope that you will make every effort to implement some or all of the protocols recommended before commencing with the Louis Vuitton Cup finals, the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup or the America’s Cup.

Summary

It has come to my attention that the AC72’s have struck, maimed and killed marine mammals and/or large fish during training and racing activities on San Francisco Bay during 2013 and there was at least one incident in 2012 with the AC45’s. The Federal Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits harassment of marine mammals, including negligently or intentionally offering a vessel to pursue, torment, annoy or otherwise disturb or molest a marine mammal. Greater measures should be employed to ensure marine mammal, fish, racing boat and crew safety during the remainder of the AC34 activities on San Francisco Bay.

Introduction

On July 25, Italy’s Luna Rossa struck a sea lion. Skipper Max Sirena said in one interview in English, “we were foiling downwind close to top speed when the boat stopped dead in its tracks.” The interview in Italian is more detailed. The team’s AC72 rudder collided with a sea lion and broke it about 45 centimeters from its bottom. No doubt, the sea lion, which can weigh nearly 900 pounds, was killed. The AC72’s do not have engines and their foils slice through the water. Hardly vibrating and traveling at speeds unfamiliar to sea creatures, the AC72’s are silent killers of marine mammals and fish. I am sure that you have reviewed this video and the description of it on YouTube. You will see it is described as “The Italians break a rudder and come crashing off their foils after hitting an unlucky sea lion while practicing today.” http://tvnz.co.nz/americas-cup-video/safety-scare-luna-rossa-in-san-francisco-5519960

AC34 Environmental Impact Report Regarding Marine Mammals

Marine mammals were struck during the 2012 America’s Cup World Series event in San Francisco and in 2013 during practices sessions with the AC72’s and in Louis Vuitton Cup racing. According to Section 5.14-106 of the Draft 34th America’s Cup EIR, “during the months of late July, August, and early September when AC 34 races are to occur in 2012 and 2013, Pacific Harbor seals, Harbor porpoises, California sea lions, and Humpback whales all have the potential to be present in Central Bay waters.” The report suggests the potential risk to Harbor porpoises and California sea lions is low or limited, and the potential risk to “Pacific Harbor seals, which are year-round residents and swim through the Central Bay in search of food is potentially higher.” The report also suggests an extremely low potential for a Humpback whale to be present.

Collision Probability Underestimated in EIR

Just as the probability of a nuclear reactor core meltdown is 200 times more likely than past estimates, so too, is the likelihood that the AC72’s, which have exceeded speeds of 50 mph, are going to guillotine marine mammals and large fish that spawn, live in and transit through San Francisco Bay and its marine protected areas and national park service wildlife protection areas. At top speeds, the boats have proven to be skating on a razor’s edge and flirting with death even without hitting obstructions. The boats are not designed to withstand serious collisions.

Existing Course Marshal Responsibilities

According to the EIR, the Course Marshal is supposed to inspect the course for the presence of whales and floating debris or any obstructions that could possibly damage or impact fair play. Large mammals are a danger to racing boats. In the event that a whale is observed within the race area, the Course Marshal would postpone the race or abandon the race depending on the direction the whale is moving or its presence within or near the race course. These precautions, according to the report, would make the potential impact on marine mammals due to collision “less than significant.”

Recommendations

While ACRM may be evaluating how to further reduce the odds that additional marine mammals will be killed or maimed, boats broken, or racing crews killed during the remainder of “these slaughtering games”, to borrow a phrase from Luna Rossa’s backer, Patrizio Bertelli, following the death of Andrew Simpson on May 9, 2013, when Team Artemis’ boat broke and pitchpoled, I submit the following recommendations. The costs of these alternatives have not been estimated. Surely, the monetary cost does not compare to the cost of a life – human or otherwise, and the attendant negative publicity.

Net the Perimeter of the Course

Place a net around the entire perimeter of the course that will keep large sea creatures out of the field of play. Check with environmental groups to determine the proper specifications needed to keep from injuring additional marine life. Nets are used frequently in Australia to keep the sharks and jellyfish away from bathing beaches. Also, there are numerous oil companies in the San Francisco Bay area. They may have equipment that can be chartered and mobilized.

Place More Marine Mammal and Fish Patrol Boats Around the Perimeter of the Course

Clearly, the procedures being used now are inadequate. Increase the number of boats with underwater monitoring devices and improved the reporting protocol to the Course Marshal and the Race Committee.

Adopt Yellow Flag Procedures

Use the Live Line technology developed by Stan Honey and coordinate with the Course Marshal and support boats gathering marine activity along the perimeter of the course and establish procedures for signaling and running portions of the races under a yellow cautionary flag as in automobile racing, where a yellow flag reflects a caution due to an accident or adverse conditions, which include unexpected animals, in the field of play.

In auto racing, when waved once, the yellow flag means reduce your speed, do not overtake and be prepared to change direction. There is a hazard beside or partly on the course. When waved twice, it means reduce your speed, do not overtake and be prepared to change direction or stop. There is a hazard wholly or partly blocking the course. Overtaking is not permitted between the first yellow flag and the green flag displayed after the incident.

It is surprising that this issue was not considered among those recommendations by the Regatta Director when he proposed his addition 37 safety recommendations following Andrew Simpson’s death.

On behalf of all of the children and adults who appreciate nature and understand the importance of protecting the marine environment, I look forward to seeing your organizations take a leadership role in promoting sustainability and safety with regard to the marine environment, competitors and boaters alike. I also look forward to seeing a marked improvement your marine mammal and large fish protection efforts.

Regards,

Lynn Fitzpatrick

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cc:M. Ott

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To whom it may concern,

I wish to bring to your attention an urgent issue which involves the protection of marine life in San Francisco Bay specifically in regards to marine mammals and the 2013 Americas Cup. The new class of vessel being used for the 2013 event is called an AC72. This design is a high speed all wind driven high performance catamaran using hydro foils. The AC72’s lift their hulls completely out of the water by using underwater foils and travel at speeds up to 45 knots. It has already been stated by the Italian team member, Max Sirena, that their race boat probably hit a seal and broke one of the rudders during a race. The marine life in San Francisco Bay is endangered by the AC72’s because the vessels make little to no noise being driven by wind only. The only noise an animal underwater could hear would be the sound created by the hydrofoils where they interface with the surface and this signal would be impossible for the animals to differentiate from normal air to water surface generated sound. The hydro foils are very difficult to detect by visual observation from underwater as well having minimal cross sections. These characteristics along with high rates of potential collision speeds make AC 72 vessels nearly impossible for even highly maneuverable marine mammal life to avoid. The speeds at which these collisions take place are potentially lethal to the animals and have caused structural damage to high strength carbon-composite appendages. What has happened to the marine life in these collisions is unknown and goes unreported.

I do not believe in calling attention to problematic issues without attempting to think through possible solutions. This problem could be mitigated by the deployment of a netted keep out zone around the perimeter of the race course and by the use of active sonar. Why these simple solutions have not been employed by the Americas Cup authorities is beyond my comprehension and in my opinion displays a complete lack of regard for protected marine life and the environment in general.

Very respectfully,

Mark Ott

CTO, Ocean Aero Inc.

http://www.oceanaero.us/





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