Thursday, May 14, 2020

Coronavirus: How is the sailing community weathering the storm?

Leisure sailing was effectively banned when the lockdown restrictions were announced 
photo : Nicolas Fichot

From BBC by Stephen Stafford

For Britain's leisure sailors coronavirus restrictions have meant frustration at not being able to head on to the water, while marine businesses face choppy economic waters.

Recreational sailing was effectively banned by the limits on travel and gatherings introduced in March, with marinas advised to close and the authorities keen to prevent extra strain on the emergency services at sea.

More than 2.5m Britons are estimated to take part in boating activities each year but in 2020 popular events such as the Round the Island Race - the country's biggest non-running mass participation sporting event - have been postponed.

Meanwhile Cowes Week - a highlight of the social calendar for almost 200 years - remains under review.

Helping others cope with the challenges of isolation

During the lockdown Dee Caffari has been sharing her experiences of her single-handed voyages around the world 
Image copyright Dee Caffari

"It'll be a season to remember, but not for the sailing," said record-breaking solo yachtswoman Dee Caffari from her home in Titchfield, Hampshire.
"I was on a beach walk and, looking out, there was not a single boat on the Solent - it's unheard of.
"There's been near perfect sailing conditions so it's frustrating for a lot of people.
But it's understandable - there are lots of potential risks on a boat."

Being the first woman to have sailed single-handed and non-stop around the world in both directions, Ms Caffari is used to self-isolation.
"I had to live with myself 24/7.
We don't know what next week or next month will bring so we're dealing with the here and now - planning and developing routines is critical to your wellbeing."

She has been sharing advice on coping with the "mental and emotional challenge" of the lockdown, and has been drawing on her previous career as a teacher to help produce resources on environmental issues for home schooling.

With crew members in close contact during the rigours of yacht racing and at on-shore social gatherings, Ms Caffari said it would be "some time before things get back to normal".
"Ours is such a social sport and racing is difficult if there is that anxiety about social distancing.
"It's so up in the air, so who knows how it will evolve and adapt to come out of the other side?"

Locked down on a yacht

 Image copyright Nomad Sailing

Lou Bundon has been carrying out maintenance work while in lockdown on her yacht
"It's our business and it's heartbreaking - we've worked really hard for it," said Lou Bundon of sail training company Nomad Sailing as she carries out maintenance work on her yacht.

Rather than return to her home in Hastings, she chose to spend the lockdown living on the company's yacht in an all-but-deserted Gosport Marina.
"I spend most of my life on a boat anyway - and I'd go stir crazy in the house."

With a busy spring and summer season of bookings scrapped, she has been using her time to catch up on maintenance work on the firm's two yachts as well as developing online courses and training videos for clients in the hope they will return when the business can refloat.

"It couldn't have come at a worse time. It's pretty soul destroying at the moment, but our customer base is fantastic. It's about keeping people engaged and giving them something to do in honing their navigational skills."

Sailing to the aid of the NHS 

Image copyright Sanders Sails
Peter Sanders has used his sail-making business to create protective scrubs bags for health workers

"We were keen to keep on working and provide something that hospitals would really want." said sail-maker Peter Sanders, who has turned turned his hand to producing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for the NHS during the coronavirus crisis.

When the pandemic hit and sail orders "just stopped", Mr Sanders began using his materials and laser cutting and sewing expertise to help make more than 1,500 waterproof bags for medical staff to carry their scrubs in.

They were snapped up by the local hospital in Lymington, Hampshire, and orders were also received from as far afield as the Outer Hebrides, Belfast and Pembrokeshire.

The company is now helping the effort to produce plastic visors and has supplied more than 5,000 protective gowns to Southampton General Hospital.

Despite doing their bit, he fears "there'll be a lot of casualties in the industry".

"We've lost our busiest time of year. Of course if people haven't been out sailing over the summer, they aren't going to need to replace their sails, so it could be a cold winter for us.
"I've never seen anything like this - it's unprecedented and you can't see an end to it.
Personally, I miss being on the water, but you don't want everything to open again too soon - that would be the worst thing."

E-sailors - on the crest of a virtual wave

Image copyright Ripon Sailing Club
Zoom banter adds a social element to virtual racing at Ripon Sailing Club

With its boating lake out of bounds, Ripon Sailing Club in North Yorkshire has embraced virtual racing, with members taking on each other and other clubs around the country.
"We were thinking about retention and keeping members engaged and also taking into account the demographic of our membership.
A lot of them were self-isolating and so maintaining social interaction was really important for them," said commodore Jamie Kerslake.

Meanwhile, in Manchester's Debdale Outdoor Activity Club, commodore Nicola Stockdale, an avid gamer, has been using virtual sailing software as a training resource.
"There is never any substitute for the feeling of being out on a boat, but it does manage to fill that little hole during this trying period that we are in," she said.
"I really hope that even once we are allowed back on the water, that people still use it."

Sailing lessons on YouTube

Image copyright RYA
Jake Elsbury has fronted YouTube videos to teach kids the basics of sailing

"It's crucial to get kids to fall in love with the sport and keep participating," said sailing instructor Jake Elsbury who has been posting tutorial videos on YouTube for young sailors as part of the Royal Yachting Association's Sail from Home campaign.
He said many young sailors had been "disheartened" at the prospect of losing a summer on the water.

The weekly videos, recorded at his home in Southampton, are intended to instil "fun and interest" and cover subjects like tides, buoys and weather.
"It's really important to keep sailing in young people's minds - it gives them life skills like teamwork, confidence and perseverance," he said.
"Most sailors are used to dealing with what we get - we're in a storm and it's a case of battening down the hatches until we can get back out there."

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