WHAT ARE WE DOING? (Update 31 August 2020)

Its been a while since my last update.  We have just been so busy managing the huge number of course postponements and then the massive recent acceleration in our activities plus the extra administration demanded by operating in the new circumstances of covid 19.

Our objectives are:

  • To keep staff and customers safe
  • To restart all operations as soon as we safely can.
  • To manage risks and resources as effectively as possible to reschedule bookings that have been or may be postponed to new dates taking full account of customer preference, government advice and operational safety.

Government Policy

On 23 June the Prime Minister announced the lifting (with effect from 4 July) of many restrictions that have limited individual and business activity.  The headline changes are the adjustment of social distancing guidelines, allowance of overnight stays away from home and the opening of hospitality and leisure businesses including pubs, hotels and restaurants.  These are all obviously very welcome.  But under the measures announced to date some important restrictions will remain after 4 July.  The Government has now published detailed guidance for all this.  The most important points about the position now and the position from 4 July are:

  • People can meet outside now in groups of up to 6 from any number of households.  No overnight stays are allowed.  (This has been applicable since 8 June)
  • From 4 July people can also meet in groups comprising no more than 2 households of any number of people.
  • From 4 July people can meet inside and stay overnight in self contained accommodation in groups comprising no more than 2 households.
  • For such outside or inside meetings Social Distancing should be maintained at 2 metres if possible.  From 4 July this may be reduced to 1 metre if necessary but subject to additional measures to mitigate risk.

Covid Risk Assessments, Measures and Terms and Conditions.

We completed risk assessments early in the epidemic and we have used these to produce sets of covid safety measures for each activity sector and even on individual courses.  These measures have been made available to customers at the time of enquiry and through the booking process so everyone should know what to expect.   Our general Covid 19 risk assessment is available here.

Covid 19 brings increased risks that an individual may not be able to attend a course at quite short notice or that we may be prevented from running a course.  We have considered the range of risks and consequences and decided that the only rational response is 100% flexibility.  So if a Covid 19 event occurs a course can be postponed to the next possible mutually agreed date with no penalty to any party.  The additional T&Cs for Covid 19 are available here.

Practical Training

Operations have restarted and almost all sailing and motor cruising courses are available.  Weekend and 5 day courses are running every weekend and week and we expect to run these continuously except for a 3 or 4 week break around Christmas.  Due to limitations on multiple household groups sharing accommodation and meals aboard all practical training courses are currently running as non-residential.  This arrangement is approved by the RYA.  Yachts return to the marina at the end of each day’s training eliminating the requirement to stay overnight.  Customers are free to go home and return to the yacht the next morning.  Customers who can’t or don’t want to travel daily are asked to arrange local shorebased accommodation.  We have a limited number of cabins available on yachts – bookable in advance subject to conditions here.  Side effects are no food preparation aboard and no wet weather clothing hire due to difficulties in sanitising clothing between users.   Despite these restrictions and complications the practical training courses have run very well indeed.  And interestingly the change to day sailing has increased the intensity and effectiveness of training – especially for competent crew and day skipper students.

Traditional milebuilders have not restarted yet due to restrictions on overnight stays and also quarantine regulations that have effectively closed French, Belgian and Netherlands destinations.  We have run a small number of ‘Intensive Milebuilders with small crew and a skipper plus qualified mate sailing non-stop in watches for 24 to 36 hours aboard a larger yacht.  These worked and proved very popular.  We may resume them after the end of the adventure programme.

For Covid safety measures see the links at the foot of this page.

Shorebased Training

Classroom training is obviously more problematic because of the need for social distancing in an indoor setting.  We have resumed VHF Radio/SRC courses with a maximum class size of 4 students and these are operating as normally as one can expect.  We plan to re-introduce other one day courses from early October – including diesel and radar.  We are considering the situation for first aid courses and sea survival courses.

Day Skipper and Yachtmaster Shore-based courses have not yet resumed in the classroom.  The reason is that home study and hybrid courses with video classes using the Zoom platform have been very popular and are a very effective replacement for the classroom.  Nevertheless we will consider limited resumption of classroom courses from mid October.

For Covid safety measures see the links at the foot of this page.

Adventure Sailing

After extensive consultation with customers who had postponed and also those who had booked more recently, we eventually decided to run the Around Britain 3 programme in its entirety exactly 7 days late – starting on 15 August.   This is running with reduced crews, strict rules on cabin sharing and a range of measures to minimize risk before boarding, while aboard and also during port visits.  It has been possible to run the adventure sailing safely simply because of the size of the yacht, the nature of the sailing in watches and adherence to hygeine and distancing rules.

An added complication was introduction of quarantine for visitors from France only days before the yacht was due to sail to France for several days before coming back to UK.  Obviously that itinerary had to change.  Ports in the Irish Republic have been closed to visiting yachts for some time so with no expectation of change we have switched a crew change port from Dublin to Bangor in N Ireland.  This programme is now over two weeks in and is on schedule with the yacht visiting the Isles of Scilly at the end of August.  |After visits to Wales, Ireland, Scotland ETA back at Chatham is 30 September.  For Covid safety measures see the links at the foot of this page.

Fast Track Yachtmaster Courses

All scheduled fast track courses in 2020 have been postponed and students have been informed.  We do aim to complete a partial fast track programme leading to YM exams in mid October.  But the next full programme now starts in March 2021.  New dates are on the website.

Bookings Postponed Due to Covid 19

From the outset of the pandemic we contacted all customers progressively and informed them of the postponement of their courses and the options that were available.  We are very grateful for the patience and forbearance of our customers as we worked through this process at an extremely difficult time for the business.  We appreciate the disruption and inconvenience that the whole episode has caused.  We have now reached a stage where almost all customers with postponed bookings have either already completed their courses or events or have agreed new dates in 2020 or 2021.  We are aware of a very small number of people (eg some who booked milebuilders) where we have so far been unable to schedule substitute dates.  We will now focus on these remaining outstanding requirements and contact the individuals concerned.  If you had a booking with us and feel that we have not addressed the problem yet please do get in touch to make sure that we have you on the list.

Better Times Ahead

I and the team at Elite Sailing would like to extend our best wishes to all of you. Thank you all for your understanding and support at this challenging time.

To potential new customers, we have started sailing again and all RYA practical courses are running effectively.  There is still a lot of summer and Autumn left and we are looking forward to even better times ahead. We are taking new bookings now for all practical courses (sail and motor) and for online day skipper and yachtmaster theory courses.  We will have a new schedule for autumn milebuilders soon and the 2021 adventure sailing programme is on the website.  If you want to discuss a new booking or just consider your options please email info@elitesailing.co.uk or call the office on 01634 890 512.  Nicole, Dave or Fred will be happy to help you.

Situation Updates

We will continue to review the position and update this notice regularly.

We hope you stay safe!

Dave Allan

31 August 2020

Useful Links:

Additional T&Cs During Covid

Covid Measures – Practical Training

Packing List for Day Sailing

Overnight Accommodation Options

Covid Measures – Classroom Courses

Covid Measures – Adventure Sailing