It's mad thinking how the world has changed since my last blog. Most importantly, I hope you and your families are staying safe and looking after each other.
It would be easy for this blog to add to the negative noise around coronavirus, and there are some key things I need to mention to help support your club and members through this challenging period. But we've also seen opportunities, and it's important to share these so the situation doesn't feel hopeless and you and your members continue to come together around sailing, even if it's not on the water.
Sailing is the thing we all love, so let's keep leaning on this wider community for enjoyment and support. After all, we all want our clubs, centres and sailors to be in as healthy a state as possible once we're allowed back on the water. So what have we seen or learned so far?
Keep racing - e-sailing is booming, and through Virtual Regatta, clubs, classes, centres and other organisations are hosting regular racing for their members and groups. A number of Midlands clubs have obtained a VIP pass so they can organise their own club races.
Bartley is one that's really adopted e-sailing as a way to stay engaged with members, hosting a virtual regatta at the same time as their club racing usually takes place on Sundays, and posting the results as they normally would. Facebook activity suggests other clubs are doing similar.
Individuals can also continue racing and practicing their tactics for free at home by playing the inshore Virtual Regatta game. Compete against others all around the world. You can also enter the eSailing World & GBR National Championships.
Routine matters - linked to the above is keeping people in routine. Give them ways to fuel their habit so sailing isn't replaced by something else in their affections while we're off the water.
At 11am every week day, Project #SailfromHome is being broadcast on the British Sailing Team's YouTube channel. This features a range of online content including home workouts, expert sessions on a range of sailing-specific topics as well as bespoke sessions for members of the British Youth Sailing squads.
If you're thinking about running some online sessions for juniors, RS Sailing have a few at home activities for young sailors - STAY@HOME FUN - the 1851 Trust have a huge amount of free resources on their STEM crew website, and you can sign up for free Ocean Race Learning resources, to access an unbelievable amount of ocean-themed content.
Helping members - this is a tough time for everyone; people are losing work and incomes are being hit. Cancelling non-essentials like sailing club memberships could be at the top of people's 'ways to save' list. The RYA is urging boaters to think carefully before cancelling direct debits or subscriptions as many organisations will be depending on this support.
Meanwhile, some clubs are providing incentives for members to maintain engagement and/or reduce cancellations, like extended membership periods, reduced fees, etc. Swarkestone is a Midlands club offering 50% discount on 2021 membership fees for those who have paid in full for 2020.
Sport England support - Sport England have announced a £195m package to help sport and physical activity through coronavirus, including a £20m Community Emergency Fund, which is now open for clubs and community organisations to bid for. Grants between £300 and £10,000 are available to help meet obligations, in particular fixed costs, such as rent, utility costs, insurance, core staff costs, and facility or equipment hire. Full details and how to apply here - Community Emergency Fund.
Communication counts - we're hearing a lot that by being forced to bring meetings and communications online, internal communication within clubs and between clubs and members has never been better. It's an unintended consequence of what's going on, but we're all learning new ways to communicate that will hopefully be sustained once this is over. If you're still looking for ways to up your communication with members there's lots of help in ClubZone.
People have also been turning to the RYA in a way they might never have even known they could before. They're looking for articles and advice, reading the various RYA e-newsletters, like ClubRoom, and making the most of the resources in Club Zone. Again this is a real positive we hope will endure. Which brings us to...
Based on the Government’s advice and guidance, the RYA has suspended all RYA-organised events, instructor courses, training centre inspections and revalidations until at least 31 May, including Discover Sailing events. This date will be regularly reviewed.
To ensure there's adequate staff cover for when things settle down, all RYA staff will be on mandatory leave for two weeks from 4-19 April. During this time clubs and centres needing support with urgent issues can email firstname.lastname@example.org
The RYA's Coronavirus Information Hub continues to be updated with the latest news and advice relevant to boating. But if your club or centre is badly impacted by please drop me an email. We're capturing the details of such organisations so when more support is available from our partners at organisations such as Sport England we can target it where it's needed most.
Just one final reminder that with club buildings and sites not in use for the foreseeable future to make sure everything is locked up and secure and/or you have someone who might be able to do a check as part of their daily exercise outing. A club in the South West has already been robbed of its outboards. We've got a Midlands club that's had its toilet paper stolen too. To be honest, at the moment I'm not sure which is most valuable!
None of us know how the next few months is going to pan out, but all I can say is please use us and most importantly please look after yourselves and each other. We want to get through this with our Midlands sailing community intact, so stay safe.