New Year 2021 – Early Difficulties but New Hope

(Update 6 January 2021)

The very high infection rates, the new coronavirus variant and now the Government announcement of Lockdown 3 have forced a continued suspension of all face to face training activity at Elite Sailing.  This suspension applies to all routine outdoor practical training and shore-based classroom training.  There are a few limited exceptions around training for vocational education purposes and private tuition.  See below.

The government has said that Lockdown 3 restrictions will be reviewed on 15 February.  We cannot assume any early relaxation.  But we must be ready to resume operations as soon as it is both safe enough and within the law and government guidance.  So we will now postpone all practical courses and events and all classroom courses scheduled prior to 15 February.  We will now contact everyone with bookings affected by this suspension and agree postponements on a fully-flexible basis in accord with T&Cs.

Sadly, Lockdown 3 (essentially the same as Tier 4) restrictions and associated uncertainty could continue into late February and even March.   But we do expect the probability of sailing to improve with time and the situation could change quickly and with relatively little notice.  So for planning purposes we will have yachts and instructors ready to run courses and events from 15 February onwards and we will soon add more dates for all types of course from that date.

If restrictions have to be extended we will advise further postponements as necessary giving as much notice as possible.  But meanwhile we will accept bookings for all courses from 15 February onwards and in accordance with our Additional T&Cs During Covid.   If you pay a deposit in the normal way you can secure a place and know that if it has to be postponed due to covid you can postpone to any later available and acceptable date. 

Covid Risk Assessments, Measures and Terms and Conditions.

In compliance with government regulation and guidance we completed Risk Assessments for each type of activity and formulated detailed measures to minimize risks and comply with Covid-Secure guidelines.  Our Covid 19 risk assessment valid up until November 2020 is available here.  Covid Safety Measures for each type of course or activity are set out in separate documents and links to these are shown at the foot of this page.

Unfortunately Covid infection rates in the community have increased greatly in recent months and the new virus variant appears to have a greater transmissibility.  So although the risk assessments we completed early in the epidemic have not fundamentally changed in structure the absolute risk of any person arriving in the school being infected has certainly increased.  So before we decide to sail again we will review the risk assessments and the corresponding covid safety measures in the light of latest information.

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

Covid Secure measures are explained in the document referenced below.  Practical courses are an organised outdoor sporting activity which may be specifically permitted by Government rules prevailing for the Tier assigned to Kent.  Given current Tier 4 restrictions and the prevailing high infection we have decided to suspend all practical training until at least 15 February 2021.  Lockdown 3/Tier 4 rules may admit the possibility of a narrow range of activities such as private tuition (on our boats or on a customer’s boat) or courses that are for vocational education (eg geared to RYA Commercial Yachtmaster development).  We will consider if these can be introduced from 29 January.

When permitted, and while Covid risks apply, all RYA courses will run as non-residential with yachts returning to the marina at the end of each day, eliminating the requirement to stay overnight (although variations in the start and finish times is allowing some night sailing when required).  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 or pre-book a private cabin.  We have a limited number of cabins available on yachts – bookable in advance and subject to conditions.  The following additional rules and procedures will apply:

  1. We will sail with crews of up to 5 people plus the instructor
  2. For some day sailing trips on a larger yacht we may operate with up to 6 crew on deck.
  3. During training we will not allow more than a single household below deck
  4. We will not allow the preparation of communal meals aboard.
  5. Wet weather clothing hire will be available with sanitisation measures between users.  We have now introduced a quarantine system that will make limited numbers of sets of clothing available but on a strict advance booking basis.
  6. Cabins will only be made available (on a pre-booking basis) if government regulations permit such overnight stays.

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.

Eventually we all look forward to a time when social distancing measures can be eased and we can return to residential training courses.  However, we do not expect conditions to reach this stage until May or June 2021.

Milebuilders

We had scheduled a series of milebuilders starting on 15  January 2021.  We have now decided to cancel the milebuilder sailings up to and including 31 January and we are urgently reviewing the  provisional programme from 7 February.  We will consider if the last two dates and any others can run as vocational training events.

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.  They would be permitted in Tier 2 but not in Tier 3 or Tier 4.  Under Lockdown 3/Tier 4 measures all classroom courses including VHF Radio/SRC , First Aid, Diesel Engine and Radar courses have to remain suspended.  Regulations permitting, we now plan to resume all these classroom courses from an earliest date of 15 February.  Provisional course dates from mid February through to June are now posted on the website and we are taking bookings now subject to the terms and conditions explained above.

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, are a very effective replacement for the classroom and they have almost zero Covid risk.  Nevertheless people do value the human contact and unique quality of a classroom course so we are considering re-introducing classes for small groups from April 2021.

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

Adventure Sailing and Around Britain

On 30 September we resumed adventure sailing and completed a 47 day Around Britain voyage.  This was conducted on a 46 foot yacht with reduced numbers aboard and special measures to minimize risks.  The voyage was a great success with many people safely enjoying adventurous sailing in a wide range of conditions and experiencing the unique pleasure of seeing so much of the UK coast – from Dover to the Isles of Scilly to Skye and Orkney.  Sadly we have been unable to visit France, Belgium, Holland because of UK quarantine on return.

Next year’s adventure sailing programme including 3 Around Britain trips is on the website here:  Adventure Sailing 2021

With the good news about vaccines and test capacity we are confident that this programme will run as planned.  With places already taken by people who postponed from 2020 and lots of new bookings this could quickly sell out.  So if you are thinking of joining one of these amazing trips in 2021 don’t delay too long.

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

Fast Track Yachtmaster Courses

All scheduled fast track courses in 2020 were postponed and all students have now agreed with us other arrangements to complete courses.  A full programme of 3 YM Fast Track (Sail) courses for 2021 has been scheduled.  Details are here:  Fast Track

Bookings Postponed Due to Covid

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 yet addressed the problem yet please do get in touch to make sure that we have you on the list.

New Year Greetings and Better Times Ahead

The recent news about infections and measures is indeed serious and the latest restrictions have been another hard blow for many of us.  For now we can only do our bit to minimise transmission and do what we can to prepare for an effective re-start as soon as the situation improves.  But we are optimistic for the future and are looking forward to the spring and a great sailing season 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 throughout this challenging year.  Notwithstanding the circumstances we hope you can negotiate the current Lockdown safely and cheerfully and 2021 brings you all that you wish.

To potential new customers, we are still very much in business and despite the continuing restrictions we expect to resume all our courses from dates in February and March.  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

6 January 2021

Useful Links:

Additional T&Cs During Covid

Covid Measures – Practical Training

Covid Measures – Milebuilders

Packing List for Day Sailing

Packing List – Milebuilders

Covid Measures – Classroom Courses

Covid Measures – Adventure Sailing