Whitefriars Sailing Club – known as ‘the friendly club’ – is a tight-knit community which was imaginative and very successful in keeping all its members involved and engaged during lockdown. So, when the government announced that sailing could be resumed, the Executive Committee was able to swing into action.

Vice-Commodore Dave Buffham explains: “We recognise that our members are a really broad church, some gung-ho, others cautious and some vulnerable, but we knew we had to be in-line with both government and RYA guidance and bring our good sense and judgement to the situation. It could be hard to 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 unavailable for use. A member turned around an online booking system within 24 hours that allowed the club to control how many people came down to the lake at any one time. This was set up on the premise of three-hour ‘exercise sessions’ and included buffer zones of half an hour between sessions to enable the management of possible congestion in the boat park or car park. The team also made a Herculean effort to get hold of cleaning chemicals and hand sanitiser.

The result of all this immediate action was that the club could 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 of the 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 more complicated now. The RYA forums have been helpful – especially the opportunity to talk things through and hear what other clubs are going through.”

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

Maintaining online activity

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


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