Displaying items by tag: Coronavirus
The UK government’s easing of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions has brought relief to many aspects of life and, particularly certain sports. Sailing is one of those fortunate past-times that is now allowed in England, along with all other forms of watersports practised on open waterways, including windsurfing, canoeing, rowing, kayaking, surfing, paddle-boarding and the use of privately-owned motorised craft (in line with the guidance issued by the relevant navigation authority).
Sarah Treseder, Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Chief Executive has been quoted as saying: "We are pleased that Government guidance has confirmed that all forms of watersports including sailing, windsurfing and motor-boating are not only permitted, but are being actively encouraged in England.”
Treseder is quoted as adding that: "We are aware that marinas, clubs and other venues are working hard to facilitate a safe return to boating activities, although it will inevitably take a while before the full infrastructure is operational.”
This last remark echoes the concerns raised by Restart Sailing’s recent survey of Sailing Clubs, the marine industry and interested individuals. While the return to the water is welcomed, it will be some time before normal service is resumed. Most worrying is the need to protect institutions and businesses starved of income and at risk of permanent closure leaving sailors unable to practice their sport.
The survey was undertaken prior to the recent easing, but according to Simon Lovesey, founder of Restart Sailing, the results remain relevant and offer a glimpse into the difficulties faced by the sport. “The key takeaways are that individuals, clubs and businesses are desperate to see a return to on the water activity provided it can be done safely and responsibly,” says Lovesey. “However, there is widespread concern that the lockdown will take considerable time to unwind and some clubs and businesses may not survive.”
The survey’s Executive Summary highlights a number of issues, many of which are common to other sporting activities:
The sailing sector (clubs, classes and trade) is facing massive financial struggle with all activity cancelled and drops in membership renewals and other expenditure 59% of respondents believe that financial concerns will continue into the foreseeable future as Government financial support fails to reach all parts of the sector.
Real concern exists over the length of time and amount of money that will be required to restart as facilities and equipment have been effectively mothballed
Advice and guidance from the Government, Local Authorities and the RYA during the period of lockdown has been mixed Covid-19 has created a lack of confidence in people and this may inhibit the return to sport.
Equally, if the sport is seen to return to early and irresponsibly there could be real reputational damage.
Interestingly, on the positive side, the respondents indicated that Covid-19 could present opportunities to reboot the sport and institute much-needed reform.
Overwhelmingly, respondents felt that there was a need for better communication from the authorities and that similar situations in the future would be better managed with proper planning, greater agility and acting earlier.
Respondents are hopeful that at the end of the pandemic there will be lasting evidence of change in habits with greater emphasis on local events and support for local clubs and businesses. Reducing costs, improving use of technology and addressing the sport’s environmental impact are priorities.
In the immediate term, respondents are keen to see proper well thought through guidance on measures that will help reduce the risk of contagion. The continued focus on hygiene is seen as critical, as is introducing clear, simple to follow social distancing rules in marinas and boat parks. Sailing events should only be conducted if and so long as protective measures are easy to institute, follow and enforce.
The Government has been warned of the risks of an increase in drownings in the next few weeks during an easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
Water Safety Ireland chief executive John Leech has expressed concern about the risks if weather is good before lifeguards are in place on beaches, and when water temperatures are still relatively low.
There is also some concern among commercial providers of outdoor adventure activities about the timing of safe resumption.
“Cold-water shock is a serious risk for people who have not been swimming on the sea or inland since last summer, and who haven’t been able to access a swimming pool,” Mr Leech said, pointing out that almost two million people living within 5km of the coastline, and many others live close to rivers and lakes.
“The last thing we want is to restrict people, but we are going to have the greatest number on the water in our history over the next few weeks, as they cannot go abroad and many have lost their jobs,” he said.
The Government has sanctioned re-opening of “outdoor public amenities and tourism sites, such as car parks, beaches and mountain walks” as part of phase one from Monday.
The Irish Coast Guard has also lifted its advisory on staying off the water and thanked the public for its co-operation, but cautioning that “the current 2x5 rule, as in two-metre physical distance and five km travel distance” remains in place.
Marinas, sailing and kayaking clubs are re-opening under advice issued by national sport governing bodies including the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) and Canoeing Ireland in line with Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Covid-19 guidelines.
Activities such as kayaking in groups of up to four are being advertised as and from Monday by several providers, including Inish Adventures in Moville, Co Donegal.
“We are restricting to groups of four, all equipment will be sanitised, there will be social distancing and we are staying within the two loughs of Swilly and Foyle,” Adrian Harkin of Inish Adventures said. “We have received approval from our local Irish Coast Guard and from Canoeing Ireland.”
Mr Harkin said that he had erected marquees and outdoor showers as part of his preparation.
“I’ve never had so many inquiries from people to buy kayaks, and to be honest I’d prefer to see them going out with qualified instructors rather than taking risks on their own,” he said.
Canoeing Ireland chief executive Moira Aston said it has published return to sport protocols for its members and clubs.
“While we don’t have a regulatory function in relation to the commercial sector, we sincerely hope that everyone behaves responsibly, observes all guidelines, legislation and safety protocols and allows for further easing of restrictions,” she said.
She said she was aware that commercial operators had drawn up their own procedures which appeared to be in line with HSE guidelines. Canoeing Ireland would “not endorse any individual or organisation operating outside of our protocols”, she stressed.
“Kayaking is in a great position to be out there, but we are dipping our toe in the water,” she said.
In Galway, harbourmaster Capt Brian Sheridan confirmed public slipways and the marina would re-open under the guidelines, with a medical disclaimer required for use of the crane in launching craft.
“Safety is our priority — let’s reopen safely” is the message from CH Marine, which has announced its stores will partially reopen for counter sales with the start of the first phase of relaxing coronavirus restrictions from tomorrow, Monday 18 May.
Only two customers will be allowed inside at any one time, and customers are asked to limit their time in store to reduce exposure.
To save time, customers are invited to order on the CH Marine website, choosing the ‘store pickup’ option at checkout, or to phone orders through for collection or delivery.
For clothing sales, CH Marine says it will be allowing goods on approval if necessary, and quarantining them for 72 hours if returned.
CH Marine’s lifejacket and liferaft servicing department remains open as usual as an essential service.
Naval Service patrol ship LÉ William Butler Yeats left Dublin today to return to routine security operations as Covid-19 community testing centres on ships are stood down.
Six ships have rotated duty in the three ports of Dublin, Galway and Cork since March 15th as a support to the Health Service Executive in providing field hospitals for testing.
The nine-week operation involved almost 6,000 tests for the HSE and was known as "Operation Fortitude", according to the Defence Forces press office.
It said the Naval Service has "completed a handover with their Army colleagues" who "will now operate the COVID19 testing centre at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin as the Defence Forces continue to assist the HSE".
Following changes in UK government guidance for England, which allow people to travel to the coast and use the water, the RYA says it is engaging with the RNLI and representatives from the ports and leisure marine industry to help ensure a safe return to recreational boating activity amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Any facilities associated with outdoor sports and physical activities have been permitted to reopen from today, Wednesday 13 May. This includes facilities such as marinas and sailing clubs.
Guidance for English sailing clubs considering a safe plan to restart activity is available on the RYA website, while the devolved administrations have issued their own phased plans and measures.
“In line with Government guidelines for public spaces, the boating community [in England] may now drive to their destination so long as they observe social distancing,” said RYA chief executive Sarah Treseder.
“We welcome the Government’s guidance that general day trip leisure activities are being encouraged and we will continue to work with the RNLI to ensure this is done safely.”
Meanwhile, the RNLI urges people to take extra care when out on the water following the changes in government guidance for England.
‘We are urging anyone who is planning a return to the water to follow key water safety advice’
“We completely understand that people will want to take to the water, particularly as the weather improves,” said Gareth Morrison, RNLI’s head of water safety.
“Our volunteer lifeboat crews are still ready to respond during the public health crisis.
“However, we are urging anyone who is planning a return to the water to follow key water safety advice, which includes ensuring equipment is maintained and functioning correctly, and making sure that lifesaving apparatus is available.
“By following this advice we can work together to enjoy a safer summer and reduce the demand on our crews and other emergency services.”
Boaters are reminded that at present there are no RNLI lifeguards on UK beaches — and anyone visiting the coast is urged to understand the risk and takes the necessary steps to keep themselves safe.
“As we start to get back on the water, we advise boaters to take a considerate and conservative approach when planning to go afloat,” Treseder added.
“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. Finally, proper preparation will prevent accidents and is a vital step to getting back on the water safely.”
Yesterday the RYANI said it continues to support the Northern Ireland Executive’s guidance on lockdown measures. The Executive has published a roadmap to recovery in which step one allows for ‘activities’, but there is no timetable for when this begins.
Some sailing activity will return in the Republic of Ireland with the first relaxation of movement restrictions next Monday 18 May.
Marine Minister Michael Creed has called on the European Commission to strengthen its support for the fisheries sector in the fight against Covid-19.
Speaking at a video conference of EU Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers earlier today (Wednesday 13 May), Minister Creed welcomed the steps taken by the commission to date, but said further action is urgently required.
The minister noted that overall activity by the Irish fishing fleet is significantly reduced, particularly for smaller vessels, and that the market situation remains challenging.
He called on the commission to keep the needs of the sector under ongoing review.
“We need an ongoing, co-ordinated and effective response to Covid-19 at European level in order to effectively mitigate the impacts of the crisis on the agri-food and fisheries sectors,” he said.
“I expect the commission to reflect carefully on today’s discussions, and I look forward to seeing further proposals that will ensure a robust and timely response to the difficulties that look set to continue to affect these sectors over the medium term.”
The first phase of Spain’s transition towards its ‘new normal’ amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic saw boat owners yesterday (Monday 11 May) allowed to set their vessels free from moorings, as International Boat Industry reports.
‘Non-commercial cruising’ in limited groups, such as a family or people who share the same address, is limited to local waters only.
But the move will come as a relief to many recreational boaters who had been kept away from their vessels under a 50-day lockdown, one of the most restricting in Europe along with Italy.
Boat charter and rental is also permitted under the latest relaxing of regulations, with further allowances — to move outside of one’s municipality for safety and maintenance checks, for instance — expected to come with the next phase on Monday 25 May.
Neighbouring France has followed suit with its own easing of lockdown measures, which allow for navigation and mooring within 100km of home port with no more than 10 passengers on any vessel.
But the entry of vessels with a foreign flag from a port outside the Schengen zone into French territorial waters, if the destination is a port on the French coast, remains prohibited until at least next month.
And Spain’s border remains closed to all non-essential travel, with a 14-day quarantine mandated for anyone entering the country.
It comes after the weekend announcement by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson easing lockdown restrictions in England only.
The announcement, which followed the Republic of Ireland’s own roadmap towards the restart of economic and leisure activities, included water sports that could resume under certain conditions.
In a statement, the RYANI’s chief operating officer said the NI Executive’s most recent position on Thursday 7 May “outlined no further changes to the current regulations”.
“We must await the publication of any further guidance of the Executive’s ‘plan for a phased, strategic approach to recovery’,” Richard Honeyford said. “The next statutory review of the Regulations will take place before 30 May.”
Honeyford added that the RYANI will continue to support the NI government guidance on the lockdown “as long as necessary to combat the pandemic”.
However, he added that the organisation “believes there is a clear case for boating (sailing, windsurfing, power boating, etc) to be able to resume as part of any easing of restrictions” while following social distancing protocols.
“We have seen the boating community acting in a responsible and patient manner throughout this period. As the national governing body, we urge all members of the boating community in Northern Ireland to continue to do so until instructed otherwise.” he said.
While clubs and training centres in England will be receiving guidance based upon UK Government advice, the RYANI will issue such guidance “only once a full assessment of any future NI Executive recovery plan is made”.
Honeyford added: “RYANI is very aware, that people are eager to get back on the water, but this can only take place once the implications of any modification the current lockdown restrictions have been assessed.
“For now all clubs, centres and participants must continue to follow the current Public Health Agency advice in Northern Ireland to Stay At Home, Keep Your Distance, Wash Your Hands.
“We look forward to the time that restrictions are eased and we can safely return to the water.”
Irish Sailing hopes to have 'more information' early this week on its 'Return to Sailing' document, outlining guidelines for a return to the water as Government COVID-19 guidelines are eased.
In his latest update, dated May 8th, Irish Sailing Chief Executive Harry Hermon now says the government body Sport Ireland has indicated they believe 'sailing will be able to resume in Phase 1 (May 18), subject to the approval of the Irish Sailing plan and the lifting of the Coastguard's current advisory notice'.
So far, the plan has not been published but, as Afloat previously reported, the national governing body has prepared a 'draft document' that it circulated to clubs and classes. It says it is 'a first look' at recommendations for how sailing, windsurfing and powerboating activities may be resumed on a phased basis.
The May sunshine, however, brought numerous small craft out at the country's biggest boating centre, Dublin Bay on Saturday. On the water were stand up paddleboards, kayakers and speedboats and a variety of RIBs despite the Coastguard's renewed pleas for recreational users not to go afloat.
Dun Laoghaire Marina, the base for over 500 pleasure craft, has indicated there will be full access to boatowners by May 18th in line with government guidelines.
Friday 8 May saw 97 incidents — a 54% increase over the daily average in the previous month — within a single 24-hour period. This coincided with the start of the UK’s early May bank holiday weekend.
“People are ignoring the measures put into place by the [UK] government,” said Matt Leat, duty commander with HM Coastguard.
“I completely understand that the weather and the bank holiday coupled with the fact that we’ve been in this lockdown situation for just over six weeks has tempted people out to our beautiful coasts.
“However, as the government said only yesterday, it’s really vital that we all continue to observe the guidance.”
Leet said that the coastguard would always respond to a 999 or distress call “but the minute we send in a rescue response, we’re putting our frontline responders at risk as well as putting the NHS under avoidable pressure”.
He added: “Please, please continue to observe the #StayHomeSaveLives message — it’s still in place for a reason. Exercise locally and stretch your legs, not our resources.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been criticised today (Sunday 10 May) for changing the coronavirus advice slogan from ‘stay at home’ to the less direct ‘stay alert’. The change has been rejected by the devolved institutions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.