Thank you to Roger Elliman at the centre for sending us this report:
Arun Youth Aqua Centre, Littlehampton’s home of affordable dinghy sailing, did not operate for the last few months due to the Covid19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown. Now, following the easing of restrictions, the centre has carried out a detailed risk assessment and formulated protocols allowing it to start sailing with competent youngsters.
Singlehanded sailing is the only realistic option, with sailing restricted to groups of six sailors in wind strengths of 15 knots maximum in the gusts.
The centre’s compound lends itself to a one-way operation, and all the Toppers are pre-rigged by the instructors and are washed down and left rigged at the end of the session.
Youngsters must have an adult accompanying them from the same household to assist with beach launching retrieval and recovery. Sailors arrive at the centre ready for sailing, all the changing facilities being closed as it was impossible to reliably social distance.
The smallest safety boats are used to enable launching and recovery maintaining the required social distancing they are generally run single manned.
A fantastic response from the youngsters desperate to get out on the water has led to increasing numbers attending, with many of the instructors at the centre resorting to paddle-boarding as Toppers become unavailable due to demand!
A major challenge on the water is social distancing, as youngsters tend to use Toppers as dodgems in light airs. The plan is to gradually take more members into the group but due to the distancing and other restrictions it probably will not be possible to include those who are only just starting on the path of becoming competent sailors until more restrictions have been eased and we can start thinking about launching our two man training dinghies.
Here is some of the feedback we’ve had from those involved:
“Getting back onto the water after being in lockdown has been absolutely tremendous, it frees the mind and frees the body.” (Instructor)
“Getting back into sailing is amazing and fun, I can go out and exercise and see friends at the same time even social distancing and just have a lot of fun.” (Youngster)
“Now we can get back to things we love to do” (Youngster)
“It is wonderful to get the children back on the sea and back in a dinghy after being trapped at home and school, it’s nice to get some freedom again.” (Parent)
To all young people who were hoping to give dinghy sailing a try,don’t give up. Things will get better and the centre will be here readyand willing to introduce you.
Arun Youth Aqua Centre is an RYA Recognised Training Centre
Is your club/centre returning to sailing? Could other clubs/centres benefit from sharing your experience? Please send your stories to your Regional Communicator