Sailing safe with the threat of COVID-19

Published on June 18th, 2020

Despite the hurdles due to the COVID-19 disease, Bayview Yacht Club is determined to host their 2020 Bayview Mackinac Race, starting July 11 for the 204nm course up Lake Huron to Mackinac Island.

However, for the 96th running of this freshwater classic, BYC wants participants to recognize the health risks and have provided the personal recommendations of Bayview member and sailor Dr. Marc S. Rosenthal, an Emergency/EMS Physician:

Race Information:
As all racers are aware Michigan along with the rest of the world is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. While the number of cases in Michigan, due to shelter in place, has markedly decreased, it is still present.

While medical facilities are not overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, the patient’s survival is more dependent on their current health, age, and risk factors than on the quality of care. Over the last three months, Michigan had one of the highest case fatality rates in the US. The disease can be lethal to many.

With the above in mind, the question is how can a crew be best protected to prevent transmission and contracting the disease?

World Sailing recommends those over the age of 65 and significant comorbidities should not race. That is a personal decision; those in this class are at higher risk of death not of transmitting the disease.

I would recommend that racers really isolate as best as possible starting 14 days before the race. You may want to test the crew but realize that each test is only 70% accurate and is less so if the person is not symptomatic.

Self-quarantine is effective. Use of social distancing and masks when out of the house and in any potentially confined area is recommended.

If at any time prior to the race including up to race day a crew member feels sick, they should not race unless they are asymptomatic for 5 days prior to the race. If you become sick the day of the race do not race. If you test positive you cannot race until all symptoms have abated and 5 days elapse.

Race day:
Any crew member with signs or symptoms of COVID-19 should not race. The risk to the crew is too high. While they might not have COVID, but a cold, I think the risk is too great to the crew and racers in general.

Per the Governor’s executive order, social distancing is still required even by racers on a boat. That means maintaining as best as possible 6-feet from others. In addition, in the cabin and on deck at less than 6-feet Masks should be worn. COVID spreads primarily via respiratory droplets; the mask protects others, not you. CDC states if social distancing is not possible, then masks are okay and required.

Things you can do to limit exposure include or allow more flexibility:

• Foredeck crew, no mask needed when on the foredeck; no others on foredeck.
• High winds and/or heavy rain probably masks not needed; exposure risk probably minimal.
• Light air, exposure risk is higher so distancing as best as possible and mask will limit risk.
• Sleeping on deck will limit potential transmission.
• For winch handles, contact risk is minimal but not zero. One can assign a winch handle per crew per shift and clean it at the end of the shift or clean between uses as best as possible. As long as your hands do not touch your face prior to washing your hands, risk is low. But have to keep hands away from face.
• Have cleaning wipes on board and hand sanitizer to protect the crew.
• For food, cleaning dishes and utensils with soap and water is sufficient, but you can use disposables to decrease risk and time down below. Consider minimal cooking using hot water only and freeze-dried food or MREs. Use fresh food (veggies, fruits, etc.) without heating requirements. Package after cleaning into per person or daily bags.
• For sleeping in berths, since hot berthing is the norm, if you have couples on board, they should hot berth together. Decreases exposure. If not enough couples then pick wisely as to hot berthing mates. But also consider boat safety with on deck crew requirements. Remember as ventilation in the cabin for the most part is poor, the risk is highest, so mask use by all down below is necessary. Consider decreasing the need to be down below, make sure everything is stored correctly, chance of messes is decreased, bags are closed, etc.
• The Head should be wiped down really after every use with wipes or cleaning spray and paper towel.
• As best as possible try to air out the cabin and head as much as possible given the conditions.

COVID-19 Symptoms
Symptoms can be highly varied but include:

• Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath
• Cough
• Fever (Temperature over 100.4 F)

Not classic but common:
• Congestion
• Headache
• Sinus symptoms
• Vomiting and/or diarrhea.
• Fatigue
• Chills

If at any time during the race a crew member has the above symptoms, isolate them as best as possible, everyone needs to use protection all the time. If someone becomes ill, withdraw from the race or other area where contact with others is possible and make way to an area with a hospital.

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bayview mac course

Overview and close-up of the 259 nm Cove Island and 204 nm Shore Course, however, due to Canadian border restriction, the 2020 will use only the Shore Course.

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