Coach Jason Lezak Wraps up the Race

Jason LezakHi Race fans! So, I guess it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I’m the blogger on the last day of the Race; I’m a career anchor leg swimmer, after all!

What an incredible Race this has been, don’t you think? I’m proud of my turtles – Billy, Seabiscuit, and Wawa Bear – because they really worked hard in practice and I think it paid off. These turtles have some serious talent when it comes to swimming, but they’ve also been doing it for a really, really long time. I’m a world-class sprint swimmer, so I really wanted to get these guys to move fast, but it wasn’t easy. I guess they are turtles after all, even if they are in a Race! And their slow and steady style was good for me to experience, too. It helped me to remember to take a look around and enjoy the scenery.

We were a little worried about Billy when his transmitter stopped sending signals – and he was doing so well – but we’re thrilled to hear that it seems that he did cross the finish line and was last heard from hanging off the coast of Trinidad, looking for mates. Too bad he couldn’t get credit for his triumphant finish in the Great Turtle Race!

And how about Seabiscuit and Wawa Bear! Amazing finishes! They really covered a lot of ocean in very little time to make it to the winner’s circle. But to be honest, I wish that they hadn’t waited until the last days to blast across the finish line. It was exhilarating, but I was a nervous wreck and lost my voice cheering them on. It’s one thing to be the one doing the swimming, but standing ‘poolside’ here has been really tough. Now I know how everyone must have been feeling during my anchor leg in the 4×100 relay! Sorry about the near heart attacks, everyone! At least it worked out well, right?

But I am really amazed by Wawa Bear. Such a huge turtle, so much experience swimming from Canada to the Caribbean and back again many times…And she just added another by finishing the Race AND nesting at her favorite beach in French Guiana! Listen to Dr. Mike James from the Canadian Sea Turtle Network describe their experiences watching Wawa Bear’s migration to her nesting beach and waiting for word that she had been spotted.

I think her story is so powerful because she is a real-life symbol of the connectivity that her kind represents; connectivity between countries, between cultures, between languages, all separated by thousands of kilometers of ocean. She represents the partnerships between passionate researchers on either side of her migration – the Canadians working with turtles in the water, Caribbean folks working with turtles on nesting beaches – that are absolutely vital to ensuring that the oceans are full of leatherbacks. Wawa Bear reminds us that what we do, wherever we live, has real impacts in other places, so we need to make responsible choices for the environment and our fellow humans.

LEARN MORE: Canadian Sea Turtle Network

It has been a blast to coach some special swimmers in the Great Turtle Race. I’m a little bummed that it’s over, but I’m excited to know that because of all of our (YOURS and mine) conservation efforts the turtles will continue ‘racing’ around the world’s oceans, even if we’re not tracking them online…

Can’t get enough turtles? Check out these stories and features for more shells and science.
FEATURE: Now or Never: Eastern Pacific Leatherbacks Face Extinction
DISPATCHES: Tagging Hawksbill Turtles in Ecuador
FEATURE: TurtleFest: An Odyssey Begins
RESEARCH: Persistent Leatherback Turtle Migrations Present Opportunities for Conservation
FEATURE: Communities and Sea Turtles


  1. Freddy Pacheco, PhD says


    Did the sponsors are considering the negative effects that the 5 kilogram satellite transmitter have on the survival of the leatherback turtles used for this unnecessary race? Is it in the name of science or for some hidden purposes?

    After the first “race” from Playa Grande in Costa Rica to the Galapagos Islands, the Costa Ricans decided not to permit any other one with our turtles. Is it why CI has moved to the Atlantic and the Caribbean?

    They should be ashamed!

  2. ScottS-M says

    @Dr. Pacheco
    You are correct, it is important to consider the welfare of the animals. In fact, the scientists are constantly trying to maximize the welfare of these animals and research plans must be pre-approved by animal care specialists.

    In addition, I think you may be misunderstanding that turtles are tracked solely for the turtle race. Although the turtle races are fun, the real reason for tracking is to help understand and conserve these animals. Just as one example, tracking has shown that Canadian waters provide a much more important habitat for leatherbacks than previously thought which in turn has influenced Canadian policies in the Atlantic.

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