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RYA and RNLI pave the way for safe return to boating

by Loretta Spridgeon, RYA 12 May 21:35 BST
Aerial view of Blithfield Sailing Club © BSC

Following changes in Government guidance for England, which allow people to travel to the coast and use the water, the RYA is engaging with the RNLI and representatives from the ports and leisure marine industry to help ensure a safe return to recreational boating activity.

The Government has announced that it wants to encourage people to spend time outdoors and exercise as often as they wish, as long as they are following social distancing guidelines. This means, alone, with members of their household, or with one person from outside of their household.

Any facilities associated with outdoor sports and physical activities are permitted to reopen from Wednesday, 13 May. This includes facilities such as marinas and sailing clubs, alongside tennis courts, golf courses (public and private), and playing fields. Guidance for English Sailing Clubs considering a safe plan to restart activity is available on the RYA website and the Home Country Governments have issued their own phased plans and measures.

In preparation for the return to watersports, the RYA and RNLI have been working together throughout the lockdown and continue to do so, to ensure that boaters can return to activities on the water as quickly and safely as possible.

Sarah Treseder, RYA Chief Executive, explains: "We know that many people will choose to participate in water-based activities such as sailing, motor boating, kayaking and angling from tomorrow onwards - especially given the longevity of the lockdown restrictions to date and the favourable weather conditions we've been enjoying. In line with Government guidelines for public spaces, the boating community may now drive to their destination so long as they observe social distancing.

"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."

Gareth Morrison, RNLI Head of Water Safety, adds: "We completely understand that people will want to take to the water, particularly as the weather improves. 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 being reminded that at present there are no RNLI lifeguards on beaches and although the charity's volunteer lifeboat crews are fully operational, should they be needed, it is important that anyone visiting the coast understands the risk and takes the necessary steps to keep themselves safe. This will also help to reduce the demands placed on the RNLI and Independent Lifeboat crews and other emergency services including HM Coastguard.

Sarah concludes: "As we start to get back on the water, we advise boaters to take a considerate and conservative approach when planning to go afloat; 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."

Over the coming days we will be issuing further guidance to RYA Recognised Training Centres, our Affiliated Clubs and Classes, and RYA Members once we have more detailed sector-specific clarification from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). In the meantime, COVID-19 advice and guidance can be found on the RYA website.

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