South Cerney Sailing Club restarts boating

Club sets up a team to manage the process
06 Jul 20

South Cerney Sailing Club is a member-only club, normallyopen 24 hours a day 7 days a week to its membership, and safety is always itstop priority. So it has been committed to helping members get back on the wateras soon as it is safe, setting up a team to manage the process, and staying inclose contact with members, through email newsletters, the website, and theFacebook page, to keep everyone fully informed and updated.

Covid19 team

When lockdown began, the entire executive committee was involvedin discussions regarding the restrictions. However, from the early stages theyrealised that this was too large a group to continually review the constantlychanging situation, and a smaller, more agile team comprising the three Flagofficers operated during the long period of total lockdown.

Vernon Perkins, the club’s Commodore, explains: “Animportant part of our ongoing review process was the RYA guidance from onlinewebinars, online resources and support from the local RYA team.

“We have attended all the weekly online workshops from whichwe received invaluable information that allowed us to take the actions we have,not just from the RYA but other clubs at the workshops.  Also, the resources on the RYA website havebeen very helpful. The local RDO and SDO have been very supportive.

“When the rumours started to circulate about a relaxation ofrestrictions, we further modified the Covid19 team, which I led, assisted by twoflag officers and one other executive member, our Training Officer and Bosun (aprevious commodore and long-standing member). The responsibility for Covid19management was devolved to this team whilst keeping the relevant committees andmembership informed, always taking others’ views into consideration. The teambrought in others with specific expertise when needed – for example, when relaxingthe restrictions on the Cadet fleet.”

This team is now in regular communication and meets onlineon a regular basis to document decisions. Online meetings are loosely alignedto the dates of Government restriction reviews, so that changes can beimplemented quickly.

Risk assessment/phasedapproach

The team recognised that, unlike the simple task of lockingthe club down, reopening was always going to be a significant undertaking andthey needed to make cautious and considerate decisions. As a result, using RYAadvice and guidance and looking at what other clubs were doing, they hadalready done a tremendous amount of preparation to identify and document a phasedapproach to restarting sailing by the time the first easing of lockdown wasannounced on 10 May.

Specifying criteria for each phase, they shared this roadmapwith all members via the club newsletter, social media and website. Thepressure from members to open the club was high.

The Covid19 team produced a risk assessment to reflect theactivities they could allow and published it in time for the 13 May relaxationof restrictions. 

Vernon adds: “Creation of this initial risk assessment, atthe speed we needed to act, relied on one person just taking the reins, beingsingle-minded and doing it. Yes, it took hours. Then the rest of the Covid19team could support the activity. There is no simple way around this task, andit is very club dependent.”

By further reducing the restrictions steadily as theGovernment requirements change, it has been possible for the club to enableadditional activities over time. 

Five weeks after the start of the relaxation ofrestrictions, the club is now on its fourth version of the risk assessment, havingbeen able to add activities by employing novel approaches, including:         

  • Making the club Lasers available to all members free-of-charge with a managed quarantine period between uses, which immediately allowed members with double-handed boats to get out on the water.
  • Making the club 420s available for members from the same household who were in the process of going through their RYA Dinghy courses to keep active, free-of-charge.
  • Restarting Cadet activity with social sailing supported by a single-handed RIB on the water to provide the safeguarding support required (not a safety boat for general club activity). The RIB is helmed by an instructor-level member to ensure the higher level of experience needed for single-handed safety recovery.

Social sailing only is permitted,with no club-organised formal racing, coaching, or training as yet. Ad hocracing among members is encouraged in groups of no more than six people in linewith current restrictions, but multiple starts/flights are being used to allowfor the success of this activity. These take the form of a single lap races,lots of starts and tactical racing, typically eight races in two hours. 

While the clubhouse, garages,storerooms and changing rooms remain closed, toilets are open for use.Sanitiser has been provided at ‘touch points’ and members are requested to useit all times.

Financial aspects

Fortunately, the club received a Government grant and arates honeymoon through the local council, which helped to reduce the financialimpact of the restrictions.

And the members have been very understanding and supportive.As the club’s membership year runs from November to October, it will be lookingat membership fees for next year to see what incentive might be offered topeople to renew their membership despite the disruption to sailing this year.

Next steps

The Covid19 team is continuing to monitor and review Covid19restrictions, the roadmap and risk assessment, implementing new activities andoptions for members over time through the updated risk assessments. They arelooking forward to being able to move to subsequent phases of the roadmap whenrestrictions allow and, of course, when they feel it is safe for their membersto do so.