Shark Sighting Threatens World Sailing Championships

December 7, 2011

World Sailing Championships organisers were put on high alert today after a sighting of a four-metre shark in Fremantle threatened to derail the Perth-based tournament.

Event director John Longley outlined extra precautions today, including aerial patrols, after a fisherman reported seeing the shark near the competition area on Tuesday evening.

“The report was made by a professional fisherman who is regarded as a reliable source,” said Longley. “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.”

A spokesman for the event said it was highly unusual for such a large shark to be spotted in such an enclosed area as the fishing harbour.

Organisers are mindful of any potential danger to the hundreds of international sailors competing in the world championships, many of whom are competing to qualify for next year’s London Olympic Games.

Rules for the world championships, which began on Saturday, were actually changed to cover for sharks. Longley said sailors who need assistance getting back in their boats after capsizing would not be penalised. Under normal circumstances a sailor being helped back into his boat would be disqualified.

No racing has been delayed by the shark sighting.

Organisers were hoping to stage a few extra races on Wednesday to make up after big summer storms rolled across Fremantle on Tuesday forcing the cancellation of nearly the whole day’s racing.

There’s been several fatal shark attacks in and around Perth in recent months.

Among them, a 64-year-old man died while swimming off the popular Cottesloe Beach in October.

A US national was fatally attacked while diving off Rottnest Island, also in October.