A reception at Howth Yacht Club tonight (Wednesday) was told of the special challenges faced in running the re-shaped season’s major sailing fixture in September, which will see the ICRA National Championship absorbed into Howth YC’s biennial block-buster event, the Wave Regatta, which in turn has developed around the time-honoured Lambay Race with its history dating back to 1904.
However, that remarkable history is now only a small part of it all, for as any of the hundreds, indeed thousands of keen sailors who took part in the first Wave Regatta in 2018 will agree, it has become a thoroughly modern event in its concept, organisation, and high level of sport provided.
But while the direct and unfettered approach could successfully fulfil its enormous potential two years ago, the restricted situation in 2020 is very different, and Wave Regatta Organising Committee Chairman and former HYC Commodore Brian Turvey was completely frank in outlining the challenges which he and his colleagues have been facing in re-structuring their programme in the age of COVID-19:
“During the months when Ireland has been learning to deal with the new circumstances, the Wave Regatta team has been regularly meeting online to consider the ever-changing route ahead. Our initial and early decision to defer the event by ten weeks from what we hope will be its regular schedule in every second year on the June Bank Holiday, carefully dove-tailing with Dun Laoghaire Regatta, was intended to allow us to see off the Coronavirus.
At that time, we also had the requirement of finding a suitable weekend in what would normally be a busy national sailing schedule. It now seems like a very long time ago when we were searched for that right decision. But the pandemic continues to keep us guessing, yet with the help of our versatile and agile team here in Howth, and guidance from our national governing body Irish Sailing, we are planning to deliver an excellent event on that chosen weekend of the 11th of September.
Our re-designing of Wave Regatta for 2020 has centred around the provision of safety for our competitors. Inevitably this has meant that there will be tight restrictions on visitors this year, with the result that our after-sailing entertainment program will be significantly curtailed.
However, our sport affords us lots of fresh air and wide-open spaces on Fingal’s very special coastline, and this allows us the opportunity to showcase this club’s world-class racing resources with a team that is anxious to do what it does best. Then too, our decision to combine Wave Regatta with the Irish Cruiser Racing National Championships will demonstrate a natural synergy, presenting the regatta as Ireland’s focal sailing event of 2020, while at the same time being one which is compliant with the national health requirements
In addition to the specially invited guests here this evening, we’re also delighted to welcome our sponsors including Fingal County Council, Wright Hospitality Group, Euro Car Parks, Cassidy Travel, WD40 and EasyTrip.ie. And let’s make no mistake about it - our sponsors’ supportive commitment to Wave Regatta during these very uncertain times has been - and continues to be - crucial to our ability to be agile with planning, affording us the confidence to reconstruct such a major sailing event.
Sailing is a sport that is not without risk, a fact incorporated in its fundamental rules and the healthy challenge it provides. But risk management is also vital for onshore planning even in the best of times, and these are not the best of times. Thus I would like to take this opportunity to thank HYC for their detailed diligence in this area in helping to ensure that we have a safe regatta for all, visitors and members alike, at the club during the Wave Regatta.
We are preparing to deal with competitor and visitor registration in respect of contact tracing obligations, as well as aligning with governmental and Irish Sailing guidelines and precautions. Competitors and visitors to the event will very quickly realise it is a different experience to the last time round two years ago, though by the second week of September, most will probably be well aware of the requirements of the new reality.
But we aren’t going to assume that. The organisers of an event of this significance can make no easy assumptions. Thus we will create a total framework within which everyone will feel reassured by an environment where their safe enjoyment will be paramount, something that will be very significantly aided by the fact that Howth’s attractive marina/clubhouse complex provides a closed compound within which effective safety requirements can be confidently and fully implemented
In addition to the provision of specially-designed sport facial masks for all competitors, in conjunction with the highly-developed expertise of Wright Hospitality Group the organising team and Howth Yacht Club will provide a unique and innovative hospitality food and drinks system, maximizing the use of the huge open space that the club forecourt provides, as well as encouraging crews to utilise their boats on the marina, and encouraging teams to remain in their own groups after racing.
Daily online registration for teams and visitors to this club will be de rigeur by September, as will the extensive hand-washing and social distancing protocols. Other COVID-led innovations - include a novel pared-back style of prize-giving - will be introduced, thereby avoiding the old-style awards system of large and crowded groups with exhausting and unreasonably extended ceremonies. In considering this, some may well assert: “About time, too”. So who knows, but we may even be setting a new and welcome trend in our sport.
Our message for the competitive sailing community is that, for Wave 2020, we are looking forward to welcoming you and showing you how this new detailed format will look, and how it will function, and function successfully too. We are really excited to be rolling forward with what we have been told will be one of the only major sailing regattas to be held not just in Ireland, but in the world, in this very challenging year of 2020. We certainly recognise the very special demands we face. But in Howth, we feel our great sport of sailing makes it worthwhile to take on the challenge.