Organizers of the Bradenton Area River Regatta have brought in a big name in marine wildlife protection with the Feb. 4 event’s lead marine observer Becky Sinnreich.
For the past two decades, Sinnreich has served in the lead role for everything from offshore boat racing in Sarasota to bridge demolitions in the state of Florida. She joins the Bradenton Area River Regatta for its third annual event and has already been hard at work scouting out the racing course on the Manatee River and where she will place her 10 trained observers and volunteers.
Mike Fetchko, event organizer and president of ISM USA, called Sinnreich a superhero in the world of marine wildlife protection.
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“She’s like Wonder Woman,” Fetchko said. “The regatta is proud to be with Becky and the professionalism and expertise she brings to the table.”
Sinnreich said there are four species her crew will focus on during the regatta: manatees, sea turtles, dolphins and the smalltooth sawfish. Sinnreich said the smalltooth sawfish isn’t going to be an issue, “because you’re more likely to see a mermaid.”
Sea turtles also aren’t like to be in the river this time of year and manatees are already congregating around power plants where discharge pipes warm the surrounding waters.
“The water in the river was about 72 degrees last week, so there may be some stragglers,” Sinnreich said.
The long-term forecast for the Feb. 4 event has temperatures in the high 70s with partly cloudy skies, a welcome relief to organizers and participants who braved last year’s cold and rain. But the good news is that the week leading up to the event is expected to be much cooler, helping to cool the river and encourage manatees to head for warmer water.
Sinnreich said the most likely concern will be dolphins.
“People always think dolphins avoid boats, and they don’t,” she said. “There are other factors to take into consideration in a smaller area like the river. On open water, pods especially, they have an easy escape route. And dolphins do like to play with fast moving boats. Dolphins can be playful so we just have to make sure they are playing where they are safe.”
Sinnreich said the general rule is that a dolphin needs to be 500 feet from the Formula 2 boats when they are racing. If not, or if an observer loses sight of a dolphin, the race will be temporarily stopped until the dolphin is out of the area or reacquired by sight. There were several stoppages last year compared to the first year and that was a point of contention for some race fans who did brave the weather.
“Unfortunately, there is no predictable pattern,” Sinnreich said. “If there is good eating out there and a lot of bait fish, they will come over. The general rule is stop the race for up to 30 minutes to let wildlife pass through, but since we expect the primary focus to be on dolphins, they do move much faster and we can likely cut that time down if we do have to stop the race.”
Sinnreich said marine wildlife is her No. 1 priority but certainly not her only priority.
“We want to protect the people racing, too,” she said. “If someone hits a 500-pound animal going at those speeds, they aren’t walking away from that. They are going to get hurt, too. It’s a two-way street. We aren’t anti-racing. We are there to protect everyone and everything and just want everyone to be safe and have fun.”
Bradenton Area River Regatta schedule
▪ 7-10 a.m. Desoto “Little Anglers” Fishing on the Palmetto fishing pier
▪ 8-11 a.m. Saint Stephen’s Falcon 5K River Run, starts in front of Pier 22 at the end of Old Main Street
▪ 10 a.m.-6:45 p.m. Family Fun Zones in both Bradenton and Palmetto
▪ 10-11 a.m. Formula 2 Powerboat qualifying
▪ 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Formula 2 Powerboat Division 2 races
▪ 12:30-2 p.m. Hydro Xcross qualifying Mayor’s Cup
▪ 2-4:15 p.m. Powerboat Division 1 races
▪ 5-6:45 p.m. Zac Brown Tribute Band in Palmetto near the Green Bridge
▪ 5-6:45 p.m. Nashville Yacht Club Band performs at the Bradenton Riverwalk
▪ 6:45 p.m. Zambelli Fireworks show
▪ 7-10 p.m. Main Street Bradenton awards ceremony
▪ Continuous throughout the day, XPOGO Stunt Show, Palmetto
▪ BMX at the Bradenton Riverwalk amphitheater
Disc Connected K9’s at the Bradenton Riverwalk