I hope you are all keeping well and have been able to get out on the water. As the current situation continues to develop fast, we are now adapting to the easing of lockdown restrictions, as announced by the Government, and it�s so encouraging to see Clubs gradually getting back to activities on the water. As always, I would like to remind you of the RYA�s Guiding Principles which influence our actions � these being that we will take a conservative and considerate approach to getting back on the water, and always adhering to Government guidelines. You can find out more via the RYA�s Return to Boating page.
At this time, faced with this unprecedented situation, it provides a good opportunity to reflect back on what we�ve learnt over the past few months and to think about what practises we can take into the future:
- There�s been a great appetite for recreational boating � it has been great to hear from clubs who have been seeing members enjoying just going out sailing � no pressure, no competition, just on the water enjoying themselves, with informal sailing proving popular. As we move forward it�s going to be essential that we find ways to keep up this momentum, and it�s been good to hear of clubs that are adding more recreational/informal sailing opportunities to their usual programme.
- Boaters have benefited from additional advice and guidance about independent sailing � with many clubs unable to provide safety cover since the initial easing of lockdown and the return to boating, there has been a requirement for sailors to be more independent. Many clubs have supported their sailors with advice and guidance ranging from how to prepare your boat, what equipment to carry, through to considerations for deciding whether to sail or not. This additional information, especially for newer sailors, has proven to be very useful hand-holding - perhaps we should do more of this in future?
- Different competitive formats work � we�ve also found that there are a variety of ways for members to get their competitive fix, without necessarily racing as a large group. Time trials and distance challenges, racing in flights and use of app technology have all worked well � we�ve even seen a resurgence of the �Beat the Stig� competition!
- New volunteers are willing to get involved with activity � over the past few months, a number of new people have discovered volunteering, partly due to time available, but also due to the enhanced drive and support for volunteers within many clubs coupled with the need for different skills as a result of Covid. These have ranged from keeping on top of maintenance/helping with Covid-19 preparations or running online activities to planning. As we return to activity, it will be key to keep these volunteers engaged and to think about how we can use their skills in future, for example online sessions through the closed season?
- Diversification of activity � we have seen a gradual trend towards diversification, whether sailing related or other forms of watersports. The past couple of months have seen a rise in individual activities which have been easier to access and many clubs have further embraced kayakers and paddle boarders. In some cases this has attracted new members to the club who could transfer to sailing later on.
These areas give us plenty of food for thought as we adapt to the new normal, and whilst there will be challenges ahead, we have been doing our best to guide clubs through the past few months with a series of Club Development Forums (almost once a week). On everything from restarting racing to opening facilities and what the new guidance means for clubs, I hope you�ve found them helpful. Over the series of 16 workshops, we had over 350 attendances from clubs across the Region.
Finally, as you may be aware, the Club Membership Census is now live. I would like to extend my thanks to those who have already completed it, and remind those that have not done so that the deadline is 13 August. By returning the census you are helping us to better understand the club landscape and enable us to work with the likes of Sport England to shape future support for affiliated clubs.