Guidance, good sense and judgement

Whitefriars SC returns cautiously to the water
30 Jun 20

Whitefriars Sailing Club – known as ‘the friendly club’ – isa tight-knit community which was imaginative and very successful in keeping allits members involved and engaged during lockdown. So, when the governmentannounced that sailing could be resumed, the Executive Committee was able to swinginto action.

Vice-Commodore Dave Buffham explains: “We recognise that ourmembers are a really broad church, some gung-ho, others cautious and somevulnerable, but we knew we had to be in-line with both government and RYAguidance and bring our good sense and judgement to the situation. It could be hardto interpret, but we had to take personal opinions out of the mix.”

48-hour turnaround

The team conducted risk assessments, based around the government guidance,and installed signage. Some areas of the club were locked off and unavailablefor use. A member turned around an online booking system within 24 hours thatallowed the club to control how many people came down to the lake at any onetime. This was set up on the premise of three-hour ‘exercise sessions’ andincluded buffer zones of half an hour between sessions to enable the managementof possible congestion in the boat park or car park. The team also made a Herculeaneffort to get hold of cleaning chemicals and hand sanitiser.

The result of all this immediate action was that the clubcould open up from complete lockdown within 48 hours of the announcement –which was enthusiastically received by members right across the spectrum

Listening to advice and to members

At least one or two of the Executive Committee have attended every one ofthe RYA club development forums during the lockdown. Dave has found it this useful:“The government guidance was easier at the beginning of May – it’s morecomplicated now. The RYA forums have been helpful – especially the opportunity totalk things through and hear what other clubs are going through.”

Now nearly eight weeks in, the club has continued to listento members, and moved from having no more than 12 family groups/households onthe water at a time to up to 15 once they realised it wouldn’t cause a problemand everyone can remain socially distanced. The club has only ever providedsafety cover for group activity and racing, so members are used to sailing attheir own risk. They only have access to their own boats and the toilets (wherethe cleaning regime is ‘clean your way in and clean your way out again’). “We’reincredibly fortunate that we own our lake and land,” says Dave. “That combinedwith four slipways makes life a lot easier.”

Maintaining online activity

A self-managed racing scheme has also been introduced and is provingpopular. Dave Kelly, Rear Commodore Sailing, sets a course at the beginning of eachweek and people submit the time in which they complete it. He factors in thewind speed on the day to produce the results he publishes – this has led tomore fun online discussions about different rules and conditions.


Of course, despite the lovely weather, much of the club’sactivity, including Sailability and training, remain impossible for now. So allthe regular Zoom quiz nights for members continue, there is lots of Facebookactivity and general communication with members – something everyoneappreciates. A lot of that activity is likely to continue even after the covidcrisis is over, during the winter months each year.