COVID-19: Perseverance to pathways

Published on July 27th, 2020

Shannon Wood Bush provides an example of how perseverance finds the pathways to running an event in these challenging times…


Hosting a COVID-era event takes a lot of introspection, nerve, confidence and hours of planning. How badly do you want to host an event? What lengths are you prepared to go to make sure it’s fair and SAFE for all? How do you provide an area-wide youth sailing opportunity without compromising the host club membership and staff?

We are hosting an event next weekend and have been earnestly planning for the past several months. Our race documents (everything is posted on line) are chock full of temporary COVID language, all reiterating state and local COVID mandates and social distancing measures. Are we red light or green light? Yes, we are still “a go,” but it’s been touch and go! Is it a one day or two day event? It is now a one-day event.

Will it be singlehanded only or all comers? Singlehanded only; double handed teams said they weren’t coming. Will it be one racing circle or two? What courses do you run, to reduce volunteers on the water? We decided on two racing circles, both running Windward Leeward courses with a start/finish line in the middle (KISS), and one dedicated Optimist green fleet.

Do we allow boats to launch from the lawn (which would have meant putting spray paint “stalls” on the grass for each visiting boat, or a big issue) or having a meet-in-the-middle of the bay format? Meet in the middle, allowing only out of town boats to launch from the lawn, and they must let us know they are coming in advance. (That brings in another plan for hose/water usage.)

Numerous discussions revolved around mandatory mask/buff wearing (we all know it’s tough to remember 100% of the time). Do we provide water and food? No, please bring your own. We had a staggered launching plan but scrapped it when we decided to make it a one-day event. Do we test everyone who comes for the event? No, but they do have to sign a liability waiver created/approved by US Sailing. How do we handle the competitors meeting? We have set up a ZOOM call for that the night before.

Do we let anyone inside the clubhouse? Unfortunately, members only allowed inside. How do we handle protests? We were set up for ZOOM conference protest hearings, but pivoted to on-the-water 3 minute justice (a whole ‘nuther research project for the correct language). We slashed the entry fee to simply cover awards (which we are mailing to the winners) and some fuel for RC boats.

The COVID language is ominous and seemingly unwelcoming and liability waivers are in place for the first time ever, when “normally” we would be incredibly inviting and welcoming. It’s more like a trip to the doctor’s office with warnings and precautions. But that’s what’s needed to make the host club feel comfortable about opening their arms to hosting an event.

As the PRO, I have been pouring over documents from recent “local events” across the USA, to figure out how we safely and responsibly communicate: “Hey, everybody! Let’s go racing!”

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