David formerly Finlayson, now Finlayson-Meadowcroft, of Upper Thames Sailing Club (UTSC) tells of his return to sailing.....
(Some names and details have been changed for dramatic purposes)
OK dinghy sailors have had a tremendous advantage going into lock down. Our class by definition is naturally socially isolated. In other times you will have seen us on the lawn easily separated by the length of our 4 meter boats, only chatting one to one with another from the OK fleet. Two metre separation on the water never a problem. Or in my case more distant social distancing of a couple of hundred meters from the nearest other boat. Get us close to a gathering of three Rater sailors and you would typically see panic and withdrawal. Family gathering around sleek Merlins not for us.
So when lockdown came, we are asking ourselves: "What is the problem?" We were built for socially distanced sailing. But we all stayed away anyway in solidarity with our socially promiscuous multi person boat members.
Then I get a message from the Commodore: tentative sailing is resuming at UTSC on Wednesday nights! Joy!
A check list of do’s and don’ts. Opening the gate to a combination: no problem. Hand sanitizers not an issue. Closed club house: our socially reclusive class can cope with that . And don't forget to log your presence at the club with Rear Commodore (Social Isolation). But wait a moment. What's this missive... sailors have to be able to retrieve boats in socially linked groups. What?! How will that work? Clearly its been a while since the Commodore was an OK sailor….
But I think: there must be a way. I get down the club. Looks like a crime scene with tape everywhere, all inappropriate socializing areas cordoned off. But wait! A couple of lightweight Aeros are sailing up and down. They are distant evolved cousins of OK sailors. Natural selection!
Not an OK sailor in sight. In the far distance I avoid eye contact with a Rater crew doing manoeuvres. Perhaps they are all related…. But wait. These boats can easily swallow a crew obeying the two metre rule. I rig my boat. Looking longingly at the water. I can get it in; but how am I going to get it out again. It's an unsolvable conundrum. The Aeros come out. They are lightweights. One bounce and they are on the trolley and away.
I am still in denial. This cannot work. I am not related to anybody down here, and to obey the two metre rule with a non same household person would require them to jump in the water and push from the back. I am thinking this is the end of OK sailing for ever. A meteor took out the dinosaurs, now this wretched virus has taken out the OK fleet.
I am thinking of tieing my self to a lead weight and jumping into the river when family Meadowcroft appear. “You put the boat in, family Meadowcroft will get it out”. Pure dead brilliant. OK sailors are a bit slow.
In it went and a fine piece of OK sailing was witnessed by the crowds of mayflies stuck on the shore, wondering what happened to Bourne End Week.
So the OK fleet can survive. But they all need adopting, so that they can get their boats out of the water.
UTSC is an RYA Training Centre and British Youth Sailing Recognised Club
How is your return to sailing going? - we'd welcome your stories - please send them to Mike Haigh