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RYA Northern Ireland Affirms Guiding Principles Supporting its Return to Boating Strategy

7th May 2020
On board the yacht ‘Two Drifters’ that has just successfully crossed the Pacific Ocean On board the yacht ‘Two Drifters’ that has just successfully crossed the Pacific Ocean Photo: Courtesy of RYA/Fergus Dunipace

As Northern Ireland sailors and boaters near the announcement by the Northern Ireland Executive that will outline a blueprint for the easing of lockdown restrictions and Boris Johnson’s anticipated announcement this Sunday, the RYA is working on a range of guidance and resources to help members and the wider boating community prepare for a return to the water. These resources will ensure that boaters can return to activities on the water as quickly and safely as possible.

Since the lockdown commenced, the RYA has lobbied on behalf of its members to put forward a strong case for boating to be one of the first activities that can be resumed safely within any necessary parameters for social distancing, once we start to see a relaxation of the current restrictions. RYANI has been engaged with local stakeholders and the NI Executive as frameworks are developed.

While the detail of Government plans for easing restrictions are not yet known, the RYA has outlined the following ‘guiding principles’ that will shape its detailed response:

1. We will always follow Government guidance

The COVID-19 preventative measures are vital to protecting health and wellbeing and to minimising pressure on the frontline services. We all have a role to play by following the Government guidelines.

The RYA will provide interpretation and advice to show how the latest measures on social distancing, hygiene and travel can be applied to boating showing examples of the level of activity that each phase will allow.

As both a national and international Association, we are mindful that Home Country Governments may issue their own phased plans and measures. Additionally, as we have seen to date, local authorities, harbour authorities or marinas may also interpret guidance differently. We will carefully review any industry specific guidance that impacts on boating activities, such as advice for the sport and hospitality sectors, as well as paying particular attention to any guidance for specific sections of our community.

Where the application of Government guidance is unclear, we will seek clarification so that boaters and activity organisers are kept informed.

2. We will, as a boating community, take a considerate and conservative approach

  • Considerate: be mindful of the potential impact that you could have on other water users and do not place unnecessary extra strain on the RNLI and emergency services.

Consider the local area and whether there is a risk that you could put extra pressure on the RNLI or frontline services. For example, are you in a very remote location? Is the area very busy? Look out for others such as families on beaches or people on other boats and think about how your activity could help or hinder them. For example, windsurfers or kiteboarders who launch from the beach should give extra space to beach users. Boaters should keep an eye out for others, and be ready to assist if trouble arises.

  • Conservative: help to minimise risk by taking an extra conservative approach to your boating.

Our guidance on safety remains unchanged: know your limits; look after yourself; keep in touch and, above all, have a plan. As we start to get back on the water, we advise boaters to take an even more conservative approach when planning to go afloat.

Sarah Treseder, RYA Chief Executive, explains: “We share our members’ enthusiasm for a return to boating once we start to see a relaxation of the current restrictions. Getting afloat undoubtedly benefits both mental and physical wellbeing and we believe that with appropriate measures, a basic level of safe and responsible activity can be delivered to get our members active on the water.

“The decision to go afloat both for individuals and activity organisers should be based on a combination of self-responsibility and risk assessment. Our work with clubs, training centres and members will focus on the mitigation of COVID-19 risks to allow individuals and activity organisers to make informed decisions relating to their own interests and activities.

“We remain committed to representing the interests of the recreational boating community and we eagerly await the Government’s announcement on Sunday. Our members, affiliated clubs, classes, and recognised training centres will receive a further update as soon as we have reviewed the Government’s plans and their impact on boating activities,” Sarah concludes.

RYA Northern Ireland’s Chief Operating Officer, Richard Honeyford adds: “We have been working closely with colleagues across the RYA to prepare core aspects that will help organisations and individuals in preparation for announcements anticipated both locally and nationally.

“We await the publication by the NI Executive on their blueprint for specific detail that will allow further guidance to be subsequently issued. Advice will be based upon the guiding principles and appreciate the patience of the local boating community as we assess any proposals and look to ensure public health and front line services remain protected.”

Afloat.ie Team

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