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What Does the COVID-19 Restriction 'Roadmap' Mean for Sailing & Boating in Ireland?

3rd May 2020
An ISORA Race start off Dun Laoghaire Harbour in 2019 An ISORA Race start off Dun Laoghaire Harbour in 2019 Credit: Afloat

There's no doubt the Government publication of its five-level Covid-19 lifting restrictions was well received on Friday because it gave certainty and an idea about the future reopening of Ireland's economy and society.

The roadmap will start from 18 May, from which point the country will re-open in a slow, phased way. Clarity is still needed on some aspects of the 'live plan' but where does it leave sailing and boating and other watersports in Ireland? How the lifting plan is interpreted by the sport's national governing bodies appears to be key to this.

The map sets out five stages for unlocking restrictions, at three-week intervals. As we ease restrictions, the rate of the virus in the community will be constantly monitored by the National Public Health Emergency Team and the government.

The framework sets out how we can keep the level of transmission as low as possible while balancing continuing restrictions proportionately with the positive social and economic benefits which will be brought about by lifting restrictions.

Irish Sailing concluded in March that social distancing is 'not only difficult to achieve onshore from an organisers’ perspective but also difficult to achieve at a personal level on the water'. The National Governing Body submitted a plan on a return to sailing requested by the Department of Sport in mid-April. This submission document was not published but an 'overview' of IS recommendations are here.

Peter Ryan of ISORA told Afloat this morning that the lifting looks like it has some 'conflicting conditions' which will be hard to work with. He cites, for example, the sport of Rugby with social distancing? The offshore chief, who redrafted the 2020 Irish Sea calendar last week (that has its first race now scheduled for June 13), says ISORA will have to see how Irish Sailing and the Royal Yachting Association interprets the lifting conditions.

 The Irish Marine Federation has lobbied for a resumption to recreational boating at the earliest possibility and Friday's roadmap has been given a thumbs up by many in the industry who were otherwise looking at a season with zero activity.

We are in lockdown for another fortnight to contemplate all of this but here's a first look at what it might mean from a sailing and boating perspective.

Government's five-phase roadmap & what it might mean for sailing & boating

  • Phase 1 (18th May) Outdoor spaces and tourism sites (for example car parks, beaches, mountain walks) will be opened where people can move around freely and where social distancing can be maintained. Public sports amenities (for example pitches, tennis courts, golf courses) can be opened where social distancing can be maintained. This has largely been taken by many of the marinas around the country as a date for reopening in a phased way. Will it allow people to go out on their boats, in small groups? Will the five-kilometre travel restriction that also applies mean those that are outside that limit be unable to attend their boat?
  • Phase 2 (8 June) People can take part in outdoor sporting and fitness activities, involving team sports training in small groups (but not matches) where social distancing can be maintained and where there is no contact. This puts boats back on the water for sailing and training with limited crews to comply with social distancing.

  • Phase 3 (29 June) Sporting activities and events can resume “behind closed doors”, where arrangements are in place to enable participants to maintain social distancing. Does this allow racing to begin but with a smaller crew number to comply with social distancing?

  • Phase 4 (20 July) Competitions for sports teams (for example, soccer and GAA) can resume, but only where limitations are placed on the numbers of spectators and where social distancing can be maintained. Restaurants to open. 
  • Phase 5 (10 August)

    Close physical contact sports, such as rugby and boxing, can resume. Gyms, dance studios and sports clubs can re-open, only where regular and effective cleaning can be carried out and social distancing can be maintained. Spectators can begin to attend live sporting events only in accordance with both indoor and outdoor number restrictions and where social distancing can be complied with. Festivals, events and other social and cultural mass gatherings can take place only in accordance with both indoor and outdoor number restrictions and where social distancing can be complied with.

Govt planStaying the course – the Government Roadmap (downloadable below in a higher resolution format)

2020 Sailing Fixtures & Events

While we await clarification on the above, Regatta organisers will no doubt be poring over the fine print. With so many fixtures already cancelled, what will the timing of these phases mean for the main 2020 sailing events? What is the date that multi-crewed boats can go back sailing? Is it at Phase Five or could it even begin at Phase Three where Government says "Sporting activities and events can resume behind closed doors”, where arrangements are in place to enable participants to maintain social distancing?

Dublin Bay Sailing Club 

DBSC Commodore Jonathan Nicholson wrote to members last month advising them to be 'ready to race' when restrictions are lifted. Does this mean the DBSC summer racing could start by Phase Three at the end of June with small crew numbers participating or will it be later? There are obvious problems for two-handers and day boats to sail, however. The club, the largest racing club in the country, surveyed its members on attitudes towards racing this season, a summary of which has been posted on the club website, shows that there is a clear appetite to go racing, regardless of the start date. In response to questions from Afloat in light of the Government roadmap, Nicholson said on Sunday, "DBSC awaits guidance from Irish Sailing as to when [DBSC] racing can commence."

and it will be interesting to learn of the results from over 1,200 members from DBSC's combined 250-boat fleet.


Irish Sea offshore racing could also commence at the end of June keeping alive the revised 2020 fixture just published by the offshore association. Then, with small crew numbers, would it allow the Dun Laoghaire to Cobh race at the end of July? ISORA Chair Peter Ryan intends to ask Irish Sailing and the RYA for their interpretation of the lifting conditions. 

Dun Laoghaire 'Solidarity' Regatta

The proposed three day Dun Laoghaire Combined event at the start of August could go ahead on the water, but club bars and restaurants will not be not open at that stage. It would be nice to think that given the nature of the set up in Dun Laoghaire (with four separate waterfront clubs) that some outdoor shoreside social could exist with social distancing in place?

Calves Week

West Cork's Calves Week on from Tuesday 4th August to Friday 7th August is a week the wrong side of Bars opening so although this regatta can happen on water alternative arrangements would need to be made for festivities ashore?

Round Ireland Race 

Round Ireland's postponed date of August 22nd looks OK for the 700-mile biennial race that despite the COVID-19 setbacks looks like it might gather a record fleet. But will it now occur with smaller crew numbers, perhaps working two watches with only one watch on deck at a time?

Wave/ICRA Nationals

As Afloat reported yesterday, Howth Yacht Club's Wave Regatta that incorporates the ICRA Nationals from September 11-13 is gaining in appeal. The inaugural regatta in 2018 attracted a large crowd and while festivals can return, social distancing will continue. Chairman Brian Turvey has told Afloat "it appears to me that all going well, August 10th might be the date where we can all go back sailing and racing on multi-crewed boats. That would give us a month to refine our already evolving COVID-19 preparations. We’re already looking at doing temperature control checks, online crew symptom checking and branded face masks for all competitors".

Crew numbers on yachts & keelboats?

With contact sports like GAA and Soccer being allowed to train and play matches, it means there is scope for sailing too. Should crew numbers on boats be kept to a minimum? How can this be achieved? Perhaps a scale like this might be useful for cruiser-racers:

  • 45 footers - allow 7 max
  • 40 footer - allow 6 max
  • 35 footer - allow 5 max
  • 30 footer - allow 4 max
  • 25 footer - allow 3 max

Day keelboats and two-man dinghies will have bigger problems, however, as it is hard to separate/reduce crew in the likes of sports boats and one-design keelboats.


Afloat is interested in all comments on the 'Return to Sailing & Boating' either below in our comments section, on Facebook or directly to our web editor here. Stay Home. Stay Safe.

Comment from John Giles, Yacht Artemis, Dun Laoghaire: Certainly, the overall lobbying to remove the lockdown to commence racing at DL is well managed. However, the plight of the non-racing solo or small boat sailor seems ignored. These people's boats are swinging at their moorings (or in the marina), single-handed sailed they are low risk in social terms and there is no good reason why owners could not be allowed access.

Comment from Ruth Walsh, crew Cruisers One, DBSC. I did not participate in the [DBSC] survey. As a crew, I would love to go sailing and take a break from the coronavirus regime. Boat owners have a duty of care to their crew and all families and colleagues of essential workers who cannot work from home associated with their boat. Also, safety ribs and RNLI crew have the same duty of care. The above was not mentioned in your [DBSC] survey. 2020 will be a year of onshore training at best. Swimming the sea has been my preferred option. 


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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Irish Sailing & Boating

Since restrictions began in March 2020, the Government is preparing for a 'controlled and gradual return to sport' and the 2020 sailing fixtures are being tentatively redrafted by yacht clubs, rowing clubs angling and diving clubs across Ireland as the country enters a new phase in dealing with the Coronavirus. The hope is that a COVID-19 restrictions might be eased by May 5th as Sport Ireland has asked national governing bodies for information on the challenges they face. 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) information

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a virus called coronavirus.

To help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) everyone has been asked to stay at home. But some people may need to do more than this.

You may need to either:

You do these things to stop other people from getting coronavirus.

Read advice for people in at-risk groups

Read advice about cocooning.

Restricted movements

Everybody in Ireland has been asked to stay at home. You should only go out for a few reasons, such as shopping for food.

But you need to restrict your movements further if you: 

  • live with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus, but you feel well
  • are a close contact of a confirmed case of coronavirus
  • have returned to Ireland from another country

You need to restrict your movements for at least 14 days.

But if the person you live with has had a test and it is negative, you don't need to wait 14 days. You should still follow the advice for everyone - stay at home as much as possible.

Close contact

This is only a guide but close contact can mean:

  • spending more than 15 minutes of face-to-face contact within 2 metres of an infected person
  • living in the same house or shared accommodation as an infected person

How to restrict your movements 

Follow the advice for everybody - stay at home.