The government coronavirus restrictions on going afloat may have been eased, but UK sailing clubs are still struggling to get back into operation under the ‘New Normal’.
The blanket shutdown on sailing activity in the UK was lifted over four weeks ago, with the devolved administrations, Wales, Scotland and N. Ireland, following slightly amended timescales, but little has really changed.
The relaxation of general boating restrictions on 13 May allowed social sailing activity to restart with strict distancing and group size restrictions still required.
This allowed single-handed dinghies and family-member crewed boats to get afloat, but the remaining 2 metre distancing limits prevented more organised sailing i.e. racing.
Note that professional sailors were allowed to return to training from the 1 June, and the British Sailing Team and the America’s Cup team, INEOS Team UK, have both resumed sailing.
At present most sailing clubs remain locked-down, with bars, restaurants, changing facilities and toilets closed.
Clubs with permanent staff have most of their employees on the government furlough scheme until at least the end of June, and only have a minimum number working to maintain security and site safety.
Even the smaller clubs, which rely on volunteers to open and maintain/run the club, will struggle to provide more than individual social sailing, due to Health & Safety regulations and the requirement for safety assessments to be carried out.
This conflict of interests has led to ad hoc racing taking place, with small groups of single handed and family crewed dinghies taking part in ‘scratch’ racing from a fixed start line around fixed racing marks.
This can work well for small numbers of one designs, but becomes more complicated if handicaps and safety boats have to be considered.
But most UK sailing clubs exist (or were originally formed) to provide regular club racing for members, and we are seeing the stirrings of a return to that function, despite the many problems still to be overcome.
At Hayling Island SC, which has successfully resumed social sailing activities (but with the clubhouse still off limits), they intend to run some ‘stripped to the bone’ racing for members over the weekend of the 13 and 14 June to test the waters!
The ‘Corona Cup’ is intended for single handed boats and for boats sailed by members genuinely of the same household. It will comprise of a fixed line start/finish for slow and fast handicap fleets, and only fixed harbour racing marks will be used.
The club has drawn up a ‘Covoid Racing Policy’ to cover this event and racing will not take place if family-member safety boat crews are not available.
This one small step for club racing will hopefully signal the recovery of our sport and the opening and return to normal service for the hundreds of sailing clubs across the UK.
Status of major UK sailing clubs at 9 June 2020 . . .
WPNSA –Main building remains closed apart from the toilets. Day sailing allowed for members. The British Sailing Team has resumed sail training at WPNSA.
QMSC –Queen Mary SC clubhouse remains closed, access toilet facilities only. Members and non-members can book Day Sailing with limits on the numbers of Sailors allowed each day.
GWSC – Grafham Water SC clubhouse is closed, access limited to toilets and hand-wash basins. Restarting day sailing from 9 June for windsurfers and dinghies. Alternative versions of organised racing being considered.
Plas Heli – Plas Heli the Welsh National Sailing Academy and Pwllheli SC are closed. Pwllheli SC members can use their dinghies by launching on the Glan Don beach from Monday 1 June.
HISC – Hayling Island SC clubhouse remains closed. Site is open for social sailing for members. Club Racing trials being organised for 13/14 June.
RLymYC – Clubhouse remains closed and we will not be providing any support for sailing activities. The Club is planning for a phased re-opening on a timescale that has yet to be determined.
Prestwick SC – Re-opening for independent sailing only from 30 May. The clubhouse will remain closed with no access.