It’s been the most difficult of years for sailing clubs, but,remarkably, there have been some very positive outcomes. Hooe Point SailingClub in Plymouth has discovered a whole new lease of life as a result of introducingcovid-safe activity.
When lockdown restrictions were eased in June, the club’scommittee worked on ways to restart sailing while reducing risk. Theirsolution, as with many clubs, was to change to pursuit-style racing that dependedon competitors’ honesty in recording their positions, rather than a finishline. Committee member Mark Prue explains how they managed it: “We post acourse and issue the start times on a dedicated WhatsApp group. Two-handedboats are all sailed by bubbles, and we’ve tightened down our sailing criteria,particularly with regard to minimum and maximum wind conditions, because it istoo difficult under the restrictions to have a two-man safety boat out during arace. Instead, we have a one-man patrol boat on the water, not in a safetycapacity but to monitor what’s going on; if the conditions are getting livelyor something unanticipated happens, he can cancel the race.”
In September, when traditionally dinghies have been takenoff site and yachts are stored at the club till spring, the pursuit racinggroup – representing about 18 boats – asked if they could keep going throughthe winter. Fortunately, the Yacht Havens Group were very understanding of thesituation and allowed the club some additional storage at Turnchapel Wharf, at alow price. This means that the dinghies can be kept available to sail over thewinter.
“Now we are running a winter series,” says Mark. “We’ve had16 entries and have picked up some boats from other Plymouth sailing clubs.We’re sailing once a week on Saturday mornings - the general feedback frommembers was that they wanted a one-hour pursuit race before lunch. So, we’re planningon keeping it going right the way through, unless the weather gets too bad, andwe’re lucky that we’re fairly sheltered in the river. We still have the samesafety criteria, and we don’t go out if the forecast is more than 15 knots.”
Not only has the club’s season been extended, but, reportsMark, its social side has been given a significant boost. This year’s pursuitracing has put a complete new aspect on the club, encouraging a lot of clubmembers who wouldn’t normally take part in racing, as they perceive it asserious, to take part and have a go. The sailors are watching out for eachother on the water and helping each other out if there are any issues.
“We don’t have a club bar, so it hasn’t been a very socialclub up to now,” says Mark. “But the banter on the WhatsApp group chat hascreated a lovely social group. It’s all virtual for now, of course, but this hasbrought people together and developed much more of a community. This year has changedeverything – after covid, things will be different.”