The Government is preparing for a 'controlled and gradual return to sport' and the 2020 sailing fixtures are being tentatively redrafted by yacht clubs across Ireland as the country enters a new phase in dealing with the Coronavirus.
The Taoiseach told the Dáil this week that the Government would like to set out a roadmap before 5 May on how the COVID-19 restrictions might be eased. In turn, as Afloat reported, Sport Ireland has asked national governing bodies for information on the challenges they face.
In further good news in the fight against the disease, in an interview on RTÉ's The Late Late Show last Friday night (April 17), Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said that the COVID-19 curve has now been flattened and that there is no 'peak' coming. Report here.
Scroll back through Afloat's original 2020 sailing fixtures preview published last November here and you will find most of the early summer events are wiped out. Even Afloat's article, What will happen to this Summer's Sailing Events? dated March 18th seems very old now, so much has happened in the meantime. One month later, we certainly have some answers to that question and only last Friday (April 17th) the Fireball World Championships slated for Howth in August became the latest casualty to be scrubbed, organisers citing 'the impossibility of getting any fix on the timing of a return to normality'.
Like all sports, sailing is trying to work out what happens next in 2020 and if there can be a return to activities and what shape it can take.
Flag officers and regatta organisers are beginning to lay out new plans, formulate COVID-19 protocols and put a new calendar in place. It's far from plain sailing but the fact that clubs, industry and sailors are all talking about a return is evidence of progress as we enter a new phase in dealing with the disease. Maybe there is a chance of a competitive and rewarding season, after all?
National Yacht Club Commodore Martin McCarthy in Dun Laoghaire told cocooned members this week that the 'end is almost in sight'. McCarthy says the NYC continues to 'scenario plan' and 'hopes to be back in the water in June or July'. 'After the storm is at its worst, the new weather starts coming into sight', he said in this week's NYC email update.
Coming up with a tailored approach to what can be done safely within the government guidelines and communicating that strategy to get the sport through 12 to 18 months while we wait for a vaccine seems the right thing to do.
Dublin Bay Sailing - "Be prepared and ready to race"
Chris Moore, the Honorary Secretary of Dublin Bay Sailing Club (DBSC), the country's biggest racing club, says the emphasis is definitely on going sailing this summer. "We are looking at various scenarios, and it's still tough to call". There could be no sailing at all, or it could be a hectic second half of the season!"
DBSC Commodore Jonathan Nicholson told members 'before racing can commence, clearly, the restrictions imposed by our government must be lifted, approval is given by our national governing body Irish Sailing and the lift-in of the boats from the various waterfront clubs completed. When these preconditions have been met, it is our intention to commence the revised programme immediately. Please be prepared and ready to race".
There have already been great sacrifices in the sailing calendar as big events move to the end of the summer to give them the best chance of happening. Even with that, some are saying, 'it is still very much 50:50' and shoreside gatherings are very much in doubt.
WAVE Regatta & ICRA Nationals
As regular Afloat readers know, ICRA Commodore Richard Colwell has been forced to move the cruiser-racers from Cork to Howth for its Championships after Cork Week was cancelled. 'It's prudent in the current environment, to delay the important National Championships until as late as possible to try and ensure it goes ahead this year, so we have taken up the offer from Howth Yacht Club to combine the event with the WAVE Regatta in September.'
The Irish IRC season has always been very front-loaded, with nearly all the significant events completed by mid-July. This year, if we are lucky, the season will only likely be starting then.
Even if the season extends into October, many classes will be trying to run championships. Hence, there is a need to rationalise what can be done and avoid congestion in the remaining squeezed timeframe.
Round Ireland Race
The news that the Round Ireland Race has been postponed for two months until 22nd August is excellent news for owners concerned this classic offshore race would be running at all.
With a good run-in needed for the Round Ireland due to qualification requirements, it was doubtful that the race would ever have gone ahead in June anyway. The fact that the new date was greeted with such enthusiasm is, as Afloat's WM Nixon points out, a measure of the 700-mile race's importance to Irish sailing.
Some other significant events were not so fortunate, however, and they were not in a position to postpone to a later date. The Scottish Series is gone in May and following events like Bangor Week in June and Cork Week in July have both been lost. Cowes Week in the UK has confirmed it is still planning to go ahead in August as has the Welsh IRC Championships.
Call it wishful thinking but based on what is currently being talked about, here are some non-exhaustive 'thoughts' to get value from boats this season and some competitive racing to boot.
- Dublin Bay SC racing - twice weekly in July, and after that, right through to late September is a scenario being considered.
- Dun Laoghaire Club Regattas - A new date for a three day combined event for all waterfront club regattas is currently being hatched for July or August. This could include the National Yacht Club's Sesquicentennial event. UPDATE: July 31st has been announced for the 'Dun Laoghaire Club's Solidarity Regatta'.
- ISORA racing - in June, July, August and September would still produce an excellent series even though losing early coastal and offshore races mean ISORA will rejig its calendar.
- Glandore Classic Regatta - Glandore, West Cork (July 18th)
- Dun Laoghaire Club's Solidarity Regatta (31st July-3 August)
- Calves Week, Schull West Cork (4th to 7th August)
- SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race (22nd August)
- Dragon Gold Cup - Kinsale, (September 3rd)
- WAVE Regatta, incorporating ICRA Nationals (13th September)
- Autumn Leagues - Howth and Royal Cork Yacht Club (October)
- Dublin Bay SC Turkey Shoot - November 1st
That's an outline of the season, without even mentioning class championships or the one design calendars at this early stage.
There seems to be plenty of options depending on whether crews want to stay local or are keen to venture further afield.
If ISORA rejigs its programme, as expected, and reschedules the Kingstown to Queenstown race for July 31st, it would, as Afloat's WM Nixon points out here be a way of getting boats to Cork and then on to Calves Week in West Cork.
For those not wanting to go to Cork, there looks like there will be club regatta options on Dublin Bay and there is the Welsh IRC Championships in Pwllheli from the 14th to 16th August. The following week there is Abersoch Keelboat Week but this date clashes with the Round Ireland Race.
On the West coast of Ireland, WIORA will have their popular week at Tralee Bay, presently scheduled for late June, but this may also need to be moved to a later date.
As WM Nixon says here, if the ISORA Dublin Bay to Cork Harbour Race is implemented, crews could be campaigning almost continually from July 31st until the conclusion of the ICRA Nationals in the Wave Regatta at Howth from September 11th to 13th.
It is certainly shaping up to be a season like no other. With luck, if planning and new protocols are successful, sailing will be back and there can still be a rewarding season ahead.