How Sussex sailors are putting lockdown behind them - and making waves again

West Sussex sailing clubs and centres are returning to action as lockdown restrictions ease.

Saturday, 22nd August 2020, 9:00 am
Dinghies on the start line at Felpham SC

At Felpham Sailing Club the club’s volunteers have really come together to devise solutions which meet the current legislation and guidelines and are still able to offer fun in a safe environment.

Commodore Guy Maygar said: “We’ve worked really well together to understand the constraints of the new normal and adapt our offering to club members.

“Our members are enjoying getting out sailing, racing and training. A lot of work has been done to make the bar and clubhouse conform with guidelines and members are respecting what has been put in place. So far it is going well.”

Young sailors and their instructors at the Arun Youth Aqua Centre

Measures have been established for social distancing including household groups providing safety cover, launching on a falling tide (providing a bigger beach and avoiding the high tide dump), and only using lightweight safety craft (two person launch and recover). Choke points in the dinghy park and on the ramp and promenade are self-policed for social distance.

Training and race coaching have been strongly led by Paul Miller with a team of young instructors looking for work now that school and uni are over for the summer. With a couple of instructors from the same household and four students, the instructor ratios have been excellent and the price has been kept low to maximise uptake.

Social sailors have not lost out either as they have gone out in small groups around low tide in lighter winds giving each other support while they enjoy the sea. The racing is as closely fought as ever with many close finishes.

Maygar added: “It has been difficult trying to get it right, but the support from the RYA through the online forums and the local Flag Officer network has helped us through some challenging times. The last two weeks have been very rewarding, seeing many old friends back sailing and having fun, and some new members too.”

One man and his dog at Arun

Just along the coast at Littlehampton, Arun Youth Aqua Centre has had a fantastic response from youngsters desperate to get out on the water, with increasing numbers attending.

Roger Elliman from the centre said: “We carried out risk assessments and introduced measures including wind strength limits, one-way operations, pre-rigging and washing down of equipment by the instructors, all allowing us to restart sailing with competent youngsters.

“The youngsters must have an adult accompanying them from the same household to assist with beach launching retrieval and recovery, and sailors arrive at the centre ready for sailing as all the changing facilities were closed to reliably social distance.

“The smallest safety boats are used to enable launching and recovery maintaining the required social distancing. The plan is to gradually take more members into the group.

Many of the instructors at the centre are resorting to paddle-boards as dinghies become unavailable due to demand.”