As the first easing of
lockdown began in May, and clubs were able to consider covid-secure ways of
getting members out on the water, Plymouth Youth Sailing (PYS) started developing
and implementing a plan. It formed a sub-group of its main committee to review
government and RYA guidelines, attend RYA online forums and create new
additions to standard operating procedures.
The club’s risk assessment
was aided by a walk-through with two committee members and an outside expert who
acted as a ‘critical friend’. The resulting recommendations were taken back to
the committee, who agreed to expenditure of around £700 for social distancing signage
(on the slipway and rigging area), gloves, sanitisers and additional masthead
Communication was key; as PYS
does not own the site it uses, the team worked with the landlord on the rental
agreement for site usage, and contacted volunteers to create a list of those
who wanted to be involved in restarting boating, and the skills they could
Selecting sailors and
Having decided that the first
experimental session would comprise four young people, the team identified a
group of members who were good sailors (able to rig their own boats and launch)
and who would listen and pause when needed (to ensure that any problems could
be solved safely). It was also decided that there would be only two volunteers
on the water, an SI and a DI, in two powerboats. Going against the normal way
of working at PYS, the volunteers were to be selected in advance and the young
people were to be told which of the club boats they were going to use, to
ensure safety and remove any complications.
At this point, the team
contacted parents and asked that they, and their children, signed a form
containing a code of conduct and a medical declaration if they wanted to
participate. The volunteers also had to sign this form.
Planning the session
Two alternative dates were
earmarked for the first session, to allow for the best weather, and both were
for mid-week afternoons so that the public slipway would be less busy.
Once the date was confirmed,
the volunteers and the covid sub-group had another walk-through.
On the day of the session, the
boats were sprayed with disinfectant even though they had not been used, because
they may have been touched by others. Safety kits were made up by each volunteer
for the boat he/she was using, so that only the volunteer using the boat
touched any of its equipment. The sailing equipment was labelled, using
coloured tape, to show matching boom, hull, mast, rudder etc., so reducing the
risk of cross contamination.
Extra equipment, including
some disposable ice packs in case of injury, was put in RIBS using gloves,
masks and face shields. The young people themselves brought in small first aid
kits so that they could self-administer if necessary.
Making it happen
On the day, the young people arrived
already in their sailing kit. They were briefed at the entrance to the site –
they weren’t allowed in the kit store, where only one volunteer was permitted
to at any one time. There was lots of hand gel available, and volunteers wore
As the young people rigged
the boats, a volunteer acted as beachmaster, visually inspecting boats,
ensuring distancing and liaising with the public. Masthead floats were added to
all the boats, even though this would not normally happen for these sailors in
The youngsters launched the boats
themselves, with large distances between them, and a volunteer pulled the
trailers back up the slipway. A conservative approach was adopted, keeping the
sailors closer to base than they would normally be in good weather.
One boat needed attention
during the session. Normally, the DI would just come alongside and fix it, but
to maintain distance the young sailor was coached to sail to a mooring buoy,
and to fix it himself.
At the end of the session, the
boats were recovered in a planned order so that trollies were ready.
Was it good?
All the work to get
youngsters back on the water seems to be paying off. Luke (16) said: “It was great
to get out even if it was raining - makes me feel much better!” And Lorine (16)
added: “I was supposed to take my GCSEs this year. I was disappointed not doing
them and also not being able to go on the water, which has made this time a bit
unhappy. Going back on the water is great and lifts my spirits. Thanks to
everyone for making it happen.”
Grace, one of the volunteers,
commented: “There was a lot of work put into this to make it happen, but you
can see from the kids’ faces it’s worth it and I didn’t know how much I missed
being out on the water, even if it’s in a safety boat!”
Doing it again
PYS ran another session the
following week, involving the same young sailors, but introducing some new
volunteers, so a larger pool of up-to-speed volunteers could be built to run sessions.
The plan is now to bring in
more youngsters but maintain a gap of over 72 hours between sessions, even
after cleaning the boats, to ensure any virus is eradicated.
Learning points from PYS
- It takes longer to rig, because distance is maintained
in sheds and storage areas.
- More preparation is needed at the start of a session, to
set up RIBs, clean boats, etc.
- Pause before going to help someone; do you need to get
close, or can it be done at a distance?
- For larger groups, stagger arrival times for
participants to reduce pinch point congestion.
- Plan to review the process with volunteers once the
participants have left – this is vital to learning.
- The actual on-the-water part was the easiest, and not
that different than ‘normal’.
- Take it easy and don’t push it - small steps!
A final quote from the PYS
team shows just how positive this activity has been:
“The reason we exist is to
support young people, whether it’s competition, wellbeing or any other reason
the young people have. It’s worth putting in the effort, especially at this
time, when they need a pick-up so they can feel good about themselves. We are
not able to run sessions as per the club’s normal ethos (choice in what to sail
and choice on what to learn), but the young people realise this and have been
great helping us sort out how to deliver within the guidelines, and the smiles
and thank yous make it worthwhile.”