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Can we go sailing? Will we go sailing?

Our latest Sentiment Survey has just closed, with 83 respondents. That is more than 70% up on the survey we conducted in mid-May which indicates that more members are now thinking about sailing. Thanks to all who took part, it really is incredibly helpful information as we try to plan to provide as many sailing opportunities as we can for as many members as possible.

As the survey closed, on 5th July, the newspapers were full of stories about the COVID relaxation that had taken place the previous day; pubs had reopened, people were able to get haircuts and the rejoicing over these two facts seemed evenly split along gender lines!

The big change for us as a Sailing Club is that two households are now allowed to mix, indoors and outdoors, social distancing had been reduced from 2m to 1m (with precautions) and overnight stays away from home are now allowed. So we were able to relax our booking conditions from “Day Sails by members of the same household” to “Residential Sails by members of up to two households” and this was the context in which we repeated the survey.

More members now willing to sail

The most noticable thing about the response is that considerably more members say they are now willing to consider sailing than in the May survey. Around three quarters of respondents are willing to sail with members from outside their immediate household; ranging from a few who were prepared to sail as normal, with no additional precautions, to the majority who were only willing to sail with members of a single other household or people they knew had been diligent about social distancing.

It is notable that many of those who said they were willing to go beyond the current club rules and sail with crew from more than one household, were also those who would struggle to form a crew since they are the only sailors in their household or live alone. This is a problem that we have to acknowledge; at the moment it is easier for couples than singles to find opportunities to sail within the Government rules, but it is still possible for two competent single sailors to pair up and sail Quartette – providing one is a club skipper and the other able to act as mate.

Of course there are still a large proportion of members whose personal or family circumstances limit their ability to sail. Some are in the age-group themselves where they have to be careful and are obliged to continue shielding. Others are caring for parents or spouses who have to shield. It is perfectly understandable that if faced with a choice between going sailing or seeing the grandchildren many will choose the latter.

The Sailing we can now offer

A couple of couples took the opportunity to sail Quartette in June, while we were restricted to single households, and we continue to support this pattern of sailing. Of course, now households can be mixed it is possible for two members from different households to sail Quartette together, either for Day Sails or longer. We plan to keep Quartette in the Solent for the Summer so that she is readily available for short-duration, short-handed sailing.

We have also introduced a 24 hour gap between bookings, so it is worth bearing in mind that a single day-sail can result in the boat being out of use for a further two days either side. If we are going to maximise weekend availability for the benefit of members who work, then we may need to establish a pattern for Quartette along the lines:

  • Monday – reserved following the weekend
  • Tuesday – available
  • Wednesday – available
  • Thursday – available
  • Friday – reserved prior to the weekend
  • Saturday – available
  • Sunday – available

In such a pattern it is preferable for Day Sails to be on the Tuesday or Thursday so that only one additional fallow day (Wednesday) is required.

Of course, this only applies to short duration bookings. If you want to tag some or all of a week onto a weekend then have a chat with the Bookings Officer and see what is possible.

Two households being able to sail together also makes crews of three or more feasible, bringing RelaX back into play. Two groups were quick to take the opportunity to book RelaX for an extended cruise, which is fantastic and will bring a much needed boost to our sailing income that has suffered greatly during the lockdown.

Looking Ahead

It remains difficult to predict how the situation will develop. Hopefully the virus will continue to decline and restrictions on sailing will be further relaxed. If the Government allow more than two households to mix indoors then we will consider it on the boats – although it will still be for individual crews to agree the terms on which they are willing to sail together.

Of course it could go the other way and a “second spike” could result in local or national lock downs. In such cases all we can do is follow the rules in force. If you are unable to sail because you live in an area that has been locked down, of course we will let you cancel your place. If the lockdown is of the boats’ location then we will have to comply with any requirement to stop sailing.

What About a Summer Cruise?

The Committees had discussed the possibility of basing one of the boats outside the Solent to enable a change of scene. The problem we foresaw were managing the delivery and return trips. Providing we were based on the UK mainland, members sailing out of a different base than Haslar would be able to drive there and back, but the delivery and return crews doing a one-way trip could be obliged to use public transport in the other direction.

Surprisingly 15 members indicated they would be willing to participate in a delivery trip. Although we would still struggle to find a delivery crew from only two households, using public transport does not seem to be an insurmountable barrier. However, only 11 members were interested in a remote-based cruise, with a similar number expressing a preference for remaining based at Haslar. 60% of respondents said they were unable or unwilling to do a week-long trip at all. So it seems more practical to remain based at Haslar this year.

I would suggest the 30 or so members who would be interested in a longer trip in August or September see if they can form crews and make bookings on RelaX while there is availability. Ideally you would identify a couple and a single, or two couples, to form the core crew. These would be able to sail under the current rules, and book additional crew members who could join you if the rules on multiple households are relaxed. Leave it too long and all the available weeks are likely to be broken up by bookings for shorter sails.

Frequently Asked Questions

We received a number of free-text comments that deserve an answer.

Q. Given that the survey showed there are members prepared to accept more risk than our current rules allow, why not relax the rules and give the members what they want?

A. The Club has put in place procedures to minimise risk of infection between crews, and relies on crews to follow these procedures to protect those who come after them. We have to strike a balance between being too restrictive and unnecessarily preventing members who want to sail from sailing and too permissive and going beyond what the Government allows and what other leisure activities are doing.

Q. Why doesn’t the Club have a questionnaire to ensure that all crew are infection free and haven’t been exposed to the virus?

A. Skippers and crews need to be able to trust each other and a questionnaire can’t replace a frank and honest conversation between those members planning to sail together. Have a discussion with the other members on the trip and if you have any concerns you are free to cancel – just don’t leave it until the last minute, so there is time for someone else to take your place.

Q. With current rules its very difficult for a member who is the only sailor in a household to sail unless another member offers to include them.

A. This is unfortunately the case. In normal times Club Sails might form but have one or two berths that individuals could book on to, and it was the Club ethos to welcome all comers. In the current climate crews are likely to be more insular and also less willing to share cabins so there will be fewer spare berths. Those who network and make connections within the club are more likely to be invited on trips so why not get in touch with a few other members?

Q. I would suggest we don’t create any more restrictions by placing the boats further away, so it takes longer to squeeze into a weekend.

A. The thought about placing a boat further away was as a base for week-long cruises. The other boat would remain in the Solent for weekend and midweek sails. However this is dependent on there being a demand for a remote “Cruise”. It seems that most of those who want to go sailing would be happy with home waters this year.

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