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What Covid-19 Means for Irish Sailing Fixtures in 2021

1st March 2021
Yacht racing on Dublin Bay in the  DBSC Summer Series is due to begin on April 24th
Yacht racing on Dublin Bay in the DBSC Summer Series is due to begin on April 24th but some early 2021 fixtures have laready been cancelled due to lockdown Credit: Afloat

It's March 1st and depending on who you talk to there is either tremendous optimism that the 2021 Irish summer sailing season can get underway as scheduled or alternatively, the ongoing pandemic will force us to navigate a stop-start season like we did last year.

Certainly, with an estimated 82% of the population vaccinated by the sixth month of 2021, the hope is it could be full steam ahead. Some pundits say such a timeframe will, unfortunately, be just too late for some early fixtures that are now 'fifty-fifty'. Others predict the season will get away alright but not until June. 

Despite the unpredictability of the challenges, ICRA Commodore Richard Colwell told Afloat this weekend, he is hopeful that the season ahead will be a good one even if there might be difficulties early on.

Other regatta organisers say they are much more confident of regattas going ahead than they were even two or three weeks ago, such is the changing scenario but there is no doubt confusing messages and lack of clarity is raising the ire of a weary nation.

The Government’s revised plan published earlier in the week focuses on the phased return of schools and childcare. There is little change to the published five levels of the ‘Living with Covid Plan’. You can read the full Government update here

Ireland remains under current Level 5 restrictions until 5th April at the earliest when Government has stated that the “staggered start of easing of other areas of restriction with a focus on outdoor activities including sport” may be considered.

Organisers of big yacht racing events have made plans to be COVID compliant, including Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta that will be split over two weekends in July Photo: AfloatOrganisers of big yacht racing events have made plans to be COVID compliant, including Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta that will be split over two weekends in July Photo: Afloat

Mary O'Connor, CEO of the Federation of Irish Sport, has called on the government to produce "a detailed roadmap" on the reopening of sports so that their 81 national governing bodies can make plans for a return "in a safe manner". In sailing's case that would certainly make a lot of sense both for volunteer organisers and competitors alike.

Clubs planning major regattas – often a year or more in the making – are again faced with impossible decisions. 

Already, May's Scottish Series on the Clyde has been reformatted in a bid to cope with restrictions. Irish boats face quarantine requirements if they travel.

ISORA’s new early-season cruiser-racer fixture along the Dublin coast was cancelled in January's lockdown restrictions Photo: Afloat

A new ISORA 'Early Season Series' originally planned for January was to continue the offshore's body's successful 2020 coastal racing out of Dun Laoghaire Harbour. However, the current lockdown put paid to those plans, leaving ISORA boss Peter Ryan to reschedule for later in 2021.

The 2021 Irish Youth Sailing National Championships planned for April has moved out to October at Royal Cork Yacht Club.

June's Bangor Town Regatta has been scrubbed entirely on Belfast Lough

Buds of the new season are, nevertheless starting to appear. This weekend and last weekend's warm westerlies on Dublin Bay, the country's biggest boating centre, showed plenty of activity out from Dun Laoghaire Harbour. Solo sailing or sailing in pods is proving popular with RS Aeros, four Fireballs, two foiling Waszps, a GP14 as well as a number of sailing cruisers all enjoying some recreational sailing and boating. 

The National Yacht Club lift-in of sailing cruisers and keelboats is currently going ahead on April 9th and so is the Royal St. George on April 10th, both key signs of a determination to get 2021 underway. 

In the latest Commodore’s Update from Howth Yacht ClubPaddy Judge has outlined its plans for a hopeful restart to sailing if restrictions allow from April.

2020 DBSC Turkey Shoot and 2021 Spring Chicken Series racing fell to Covid-19 on Dublin Bay Photo: Afloat2020 DBSC Turkey Shoot and 2021 Spring Chicken Series racing fell to Covid-19 on Dublin Bay Photo: Afloat

Dublin Bay Sailing Club, the umbrella organisation that runs racing for all four waterfront clubs in a combined fleet of 250 sailing cruisers and dinghies and 1,200 members, is scheduled to start on Saturday, April 24th. New Commodore Ann Kirwan has the unenviable job of trying to prepare for a season that includes the significant cost of laying over 20 marks across the bay and preparing for a first race while at the same time trying to keep an eye on transitions between Government COVID levels, where there will be ‘amendments’ published, based on the most recent medical advice at the time.

Dun Laoghaire Laser sailors racing inside the town's harbour in 2020. It looks like the single handed DBSC class will get a further boost this summer thanks to the continuing threat of COVID-19.Dun Laoghaire Laser sailors racing inside the town's harbour in 2020. It looks like the single-handed DBSC class will get a further boost this summer thanks to the continuing threat of COVID-19 Photo: Afloat

The question is will Ireland possibly go from Level 5 to Level 2 from April 5th to April 24th, a scenario that would allow the first DBSC race of 2021 get underway on schedule?

Either way, it will be another altered season with hospitality and clubhouses not scheduled to open till mid-June. Certainly, the Government Advisory in operation against all non-essential international travel will impact events such as Dun Laoghaire's staging of the Laser 4.7 World Championships planned for August.

DBSC was a bellwether in 2020, achieving a remarkably full programme in 2020 when Pandemic Regulations permitted, a feat that led to the club picking up the Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year Award.

Certainly, if DBSC gets underway it will provide great hope to other race and regatta organisers such as June's Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, O'Leary Insurance's Sovereign's Cup in Kinsale and July's Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, where they have already put in place pandemic restriction measures to reduce numbers. 

Increasingly though it looks like international travel restrictions will kerb UK visitors to the 2021 Irish regatta circuit.

Keith Miller’s Yamaha 36 Andante from Kilmore Quay is one fo ten Irish yachts registered for August’s Fastnet Race where COVID protocols are likely Photo: AfloatKeith Miller’s Yamaha 36 Andante from Kilmore Quay is one fo ten Irish yachts registered for August’s Fastnet Race where COVID protocols are likely Photo: Afloat

In the UK, RORC has announced it expects to return to overnight offshore racing and the London club is planning a return to its Spring Series on the Solent in April.

But for now, even for events as late as West Cork Calves Week in August or the ICRA Nationals in September, the advice of Afloat's WM Nixon given last December still rings true; Irish Sailing Fixtures for 2021? The Best Plan is to Keep Planning.

There will be updates from regattas organisers at next weekend's ICRA conference. More here

If you have any observations or queries, please email Afloat and we will do our best to clarify any of the Government’s guidelines.

Afloat.ie Team

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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.

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