It’s been the most difficult of years for sailing clubs, but, remarkably, there have been some very positive outcomes. Hooe Point Sailing Club in Plymouth has discovered a whole new lease of life as a result of introducing covid-safe activity.  

When lockdown restrictions were eased in June, the club’s committee worked on ways to restart sailing while reducing risk. Their solution, as with many clubs, was to change to pursuit-style racing that depended on competitors’ honesty in recording their positions, rather than a finish line. Committee member Mark Prue explains how they managed it: “We post a course and issue the start times on a dedicated WhatsApp group. Two-handed boats are all sailed by bubbles, and we’ve tightened down our sailing criteria, particularly with regard to minimum and maximum wind conditions, because it is too difficult under the restrictions to have a two-man safety boat out during a race. Instead, we have a one-man patrol boat on the water, not in a safety capacity but to monitor what’s going on; if the conditions are getting lively or something unanticipated happens, he can cancel the race.”  

In September, when traditionally dinghies have been taken off site and yachts are stored at the club till spring, the pursuit racing group – representing about 18 boats – asked if they could keep going through the winter. Fortunately, the Yacht Havens Group were very understanding of the situation and allowed the club some additional storage at Turnchapel Wharf, at a low price. This means that the dinghies can be kept available to sail over the winter.  

“Now we are running a winter series,” says Mark. “We’ve had 16 entries and have picked up some boats from other Plymouth sailing clubs. We’re sailing once a week on Saturday mornings - the general feedback from members was that they wanted a one-hour pursuit race before lunch. So, we’re planning on keeping it going right the way through, unless the weather gets too bad, and we’re lucky that we’re fairly sheltered in the river. We still have the same safety 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, reports Mark, its social side has been given a significant boost. This year’s pursuit racing has put a complete new aspect on the club, encouraging a lot of club members who wouldn’t normally take part in racing, as they perceive it as serious, to take part and have a go. The sailors are watching out for each other 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 social club up to now,” says Mark. “But the banter on the WhatsApp group chat has created a lovely social group. It’s all virtual for now, of course, but this has brought people together and developed much more of a community. This year has changed everything – after covid, things will be different.”  

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