The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) is delighted to publish its guidance for a return to boating for crew from different households. This guidance has been reviewed by Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) after the RYA submitted its action plan two weeks ago as part of the Return to Recreational Team Sport Framework.

Whilst many single-handed or single household participants have enjoyed being back afloat since mid-May, this new guidance now gives clear direction to those who enjoy sailing or racing as part of a team.

As part of this process the RYA team reviewed the potential risks of COVID-19 in different types of boats at different times. As a sport that naturally benefits from being outdoors in the elements, the RYA has successfully demonstrated that boating is appropriate for teams of sailors made up of different households to be permitted to sail and race together – providing the appropriate mitigation is in place.

Ian Walker, RYA Director of Racing, explains: “This has been a real team effort within the RYA and we are delighted that DCMS has taken time to understand our sport and that they trust our stakeholders to act responsibly.

“Boating has many natural advantages that reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, but we are acutely aware that there will always be an element of risk. As this pandemic continues to unfold, it will remain vitally important that we all take personal responsibility for assessing the risks and take the appropriate mitigating actions. It remains crucial that we all respect any rules and safety measures that our clubs deem necessary to put in place.”

The RYA Guidance on Restarting Boating and Managing Covid 19 and Guidance on Major Events and Covid 19 have been central to the return to recreational boating activity and they remain critical documents for any venue planning to host sailing activity, along with all applicable Government regulations.

The RYA strongly believes that the highest risk will often be before and after going afloat, which is why the security of our venues remains a priority. The new RYA Guidance on sailing & racing with participants from different households during COVID-19 in England that has been published today outlines the ways in which skippers and participants should review risk and how they might mitigate against that risk in a team environment.

The guidance highlights the increased risk of certain on-board activities such as rigging, hiking out or two person winch operation. It also recognises that while social distancing of 1m+ may not always be possible on-board, it should always be possible to maintain a minimum separation of 0.5m. Mitigation of the risk of being separated by less than 1m can be provided by reducing the time spent in close proximity, avoiding face to face contact and not shouting.

The role of face coverings is also considered. In the context of COVID-19, a face covering is something which safely covers the nose and mouth. You can buy reusable or single-use face coverings. You may also use a scarf, bandana, religious garment or hand-made cloth covering but these must securely fit round the side of the face.

Pete Allam, CEO of Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy, comments: “This is really good news that has come just in time to get some organised training and racing activity going again for double-handed boats this summer. At WPNSA we have put in place all the necessary measures to provide a COVID-19 secure venue and I am sure the participants will heed all the relevant RYA guidance in order to get out and enjoy sailing safely as part of a team again.”

One activity highlighted by the review that remains high risk and for which there does not currently appear to be suitable mitigation is that of crews sleeping in communal areas down below on race yachts and the practice of ‘hot bunking’. Clearly it is not currently advisable for people from different households to share confined spaces for long periods of time. 

The RYA will continue to support the national effort to control the spread of COVID-19 and assist members of the RYA family with any variations that might develop at a local level. Whilst the regulations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may be different, they are all aimed at controlling the virus. Clubs should be aware that the pace at which the regulations are being eased varies considerably between the four nations and they should heed country specific guidance available on the RYA website. For more information, visit the ‘Return to Boating Hub’ or contact the RYA for further support. 

Please note: whilst the Return to Recreational Team Sport Framework and the RYA guidance on sailing and racing with participants from different households has been written for the competitive and racing elements of our sport, there may be occasions where the principles can be applied in an RYA training environment. Please visit the Training Support Site for further guidance.