It may be named the Tipsy Turtle race, but the 240 runners who gathered at Sexton Plaza on a glorious Saturday morning looked more like rabbits as they dashed across the 2-mile finish line in record times. The mad dash raised funds and awareness to help the nonprofit Coastal Connections protect coastal habitats for sea turtle survival.
Post-race, participants hydrated with water before helping themselves to quiche, fruit cups and pastries donated by Chelsea’s Gourmet, mimosas from Mulligan’s Beach House and beer from Sailfish Brewing Co.
“This is more than a race,” said Kendra Cope, founder and executive director of Coastal Connections.
“This an opportunity for families to come out to the beach, have some fun and learn a bit more about the plight of the sea turtles. The Tipsy Turtle race is one of our biggest fundraisers and a chance to create community awareness about sea turtle nesting season, which started March 1 and runs through October. All the funds raised today will go toward local sea turtle conservation.”
“I train every day, and this is so much fun with people of all ages and abilities,” said Brandon Rinchack, the first runner to cross the finish line. “Plus, it’s a beautiful way to start the day and support our sea turtles.”
Younger runners had fun participating in a Hatchling Dash, sprinting in the sand and dodging obstacles, much like the sea turtle hatchlings do after scrambling out of their nests and making a dash to the ocean. Volunteers, dressed as predators such as crabs and raccoons and beach debris such as plastic bags and fishing nets, represented the various hurdles sea turtle hatchlings encounter along the way.
One of the biggest hurdles for sea turtles and hatchlings is the distraction from lights on the beach emanating from homes, businesses and hotels. Coastal Connections volunteers were happy to educate everyone about the danger of beachfront lighting during nesting season.
Artificial light can draw hatchlings away from the sea and into danger and can also deter females from nesting on the beach at night.
According to FWC lighting guidelines, sea turtle-friendly lights should be long wavelengths (red or orange), low to the ground and shielded. Special turtle-safe light testing cards are available for businesses to determine whether the artificial lighting they use is sea turtle-friendly.
Proceeds from the Tipsy Turtle race also help fund Coastal Connections’ free educational programs offered to the public, including nighttime turtle walks, coastal cleanups, the beach litter baskets at all public beach accesses, and the Vero goes Zero program, which provides local restaurants with single use plastic alternatives.
Coastal Connections has grown considerably since its 2017 inception. The organization has increased from an initial eight volunteers, into a thriving, environmental nonprofit that drives eco-tourism with a force of more than 100 community volunteers each year.
For more information, visit coastal-connections.org.
Photos by Kaila Jones