Rowing for the dolphins
Georgia Perry had her sights set on competing at the Rio Olympics. At the 2015 World Rowing Championships her New Zealand women’s quadruple sculls missed out on qualifying for Rio by just one place. The crew then raced at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in May this year. They missed out by just one place.
Perry decided to take a break from rowing. This break, however, has consisted of up to four hours on the indoor rowing machine in preparation for an 87km ocean row. Perry and fellow rowers, Hayden Cohen, Emma Sherrat and Rob McCaig, want to raise awareness of the plight of the Maui’s and Hector’s Dolphins.
“Every piece of research I do on these dolphins makes me love them more and get more and more frustrated and devastated that our own country is letting this happen,” says Perry.
Maui’s dolphin is the world’s rarest and smallest dolphin and sits on the brink of extinction. It is estimated about 55 remain. They are listed as critically endangered. Hector’s dolphin numbers around 7,000 but is under threat from pollutants, fisheries bycatch and boat disturbance. They are listed as endangered.
The rowers will start at 4am Saturday 24 September in a surf boat and go from Akaroa to Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island’s east coast. Perry says they have been training individually and came together for their first row earlier this week.
“It is so different from flat-water rowing. We battled through some decent waves and then once further out we could appreciate the flatter water. Two Hector’s dolphins then appeared right beside our boat. It was a magical moment. They hung around for about 15 minutes and sometimes came close enough that we could have touched them. We have taken that as a sign that we are doing the right thing.”
“Most people have been calling us crazy to want to do this,” says Perry who believes the mission ties in well with the personality of a rower. “Rowing attracts and grips a certain type of person. We all fit into that category; we are all big goal-setters and enjoy a decent challenge. Our minds work differently.”
Perry says they are not completely sure what the row will entail. “None of us have ever attempted a row anywhere near to this length. The longest row I have ever done was a 40km row in an eight one summer coached by Dick Tonks.”
“We know it will get mentally tough,” says Perry, “and we are preparing for some real highs and lows (especially lows). But we all are pretty confident that our determination will get us through that part of it. We plan to tell stories and share dolphin jokes to keep each other positive and lively.”
Perry is expecting the row to take about ten hours.
The crew will be supported throughout the row by a follow boat as a safety precaution and McCaig says there are plans for others to walk, bike and kayak parts of the journey.
To find out more: https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/kiwiofthesea