Thursday, April 2, 2020

Keeping Sailing & Boating Safe in Days of Social Distancing

Dun Laoghirie Harbour, Ireland- where's Waldo??
(Dublin, Ireland)- Over in the land of lucky leprechauns, our friends in Ireland are always thinking of clever ways around any obstacles that may be thwarting their efforts to enjoy life and sailing.  Recently, the editors at published some insights in an article titled- "Keeping Sailing & Boating Safe in Days of Social Distancing."

"It's nice to be out there with the wind and the waves and as one letter writer to the Irish Times mentioned when he spotted boats sailing on Dublin Bay this week - 'what a way to isolate!' 

We think the same here at Afloat, but even sailing isn't free of social distancing guidelines and as we have seen, unfortunately, largely because of shoreside issues, the bulk of sailing events around the world have now been cancelled. It is important to recognize the significant impact that the current Coronavirus / COVID-19 crisis is having on sailing clubs across Ireland.

Right now, there are other priorities of the most serious nature, but it's worth mentioning- for sailing's sake- that this Coronavirus is wrecking the 2020 sailing fixture list and much more besides.

It's important for the club network that we salvage as much as we can.

Other sports, such as golf, are finding ways of keeping play going.

We have plenty of unpopulated open water (for example look at our live webcam of Dublin Bay). We have plenty of boats and with today's Spring Equinox (the earliest in 124 years) hundreds of boaters itching to go afloat.

While areas within clubhouses may not be available due to the need for social distancing, the sport remains open and accessible. The lift in of the country's biggest fleet of yachts on Dublin Bay is on track for April. Marinas are open. Club membership plus supporting the cluster of Irish marine services around the coast has never been more important. 

Yacht Club members and sailors and boaters, in general, can still go afloat and enjoy their sailing while staying within the guidelines issued by the Health Service Executive in the Republic of Ireland and Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

So, as organizers prepare to launch the season, is there a way to support them in order to go afloat safely without abandoning the ship, as it were? 

Can there be any activity that rigorously upholds the social distancing guidelines, keeps everyone safe and avoids groups of people in prolonged contact? There has to be more to our fantastic sport than an eSailing National Championships?

Already, North Sails sailmaker Prof O'Connell is reporting a number of clients are changing the way they plan to go sailing: "there's some interest from yacht owners in re-tasking their race boats into family day-sailers to get the family out on the water, conversion of bolt rope race mainsails into luff slid cruising sails, the addition of furler/furling headsails for family cruising."

A quick brainstorm also came up with the following ideas: 
  • Solo/ doublehanded keelboat races with white sails/reduced sail?
  • Solo/ doublehanded dinghy races with white sails?
  • Family/ household crewed races (e.g. can people living in the same household sail on the same boat?)
  • Family/ household day cruising?
  • Virtual marks/starts to avoid contact among race officials?
Wishful thinking? It may well be. But, getting out on the water is good for both our physical and mental health. We only need two boats to start an informal race or one boat for a day sail. 

So, at Afloat, we're keen to hear any ideas as to how sailing can keep going. But above all else, any suggestion first needs to ensure it is well within social and physical distancing guidelines.
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