Global environmental challenges
The contestants are chunky to say the least, but to their celebrity coaches and sponsors they are things of beauty: 11 endangered leatherback sea turtles, competing to be the first to swim from their chilly feeding grounds off the Canadian Atlantic coast to their breeding grounds in the Caribbean.
The Great Turtle Race starts April 16, but the handicapping began early, with boosters for massive entrants Nightswimmer and Backspacer boasting that they were sure to win.
“Our turtle, Nightswimmer — huge, beautiful,” said Mike Mills, bass player with alternative pop/rock group R.E.M., which is sponsoring the big male racer. “Of course with (former U.S. Olympic champion swimmer) Janet Evans as coach I really don’t see how we can lose.”
Evans said that as a distance swimmer, she can relate to Nightswimmer’s challenge. Because he weighs 970 pounds, she said, “I’m going to try to get him to use his size to move through the water quickly and to conserve some energy, because he really has a long way to go.”