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Hail to the volunteers!

by Mark Jardine 17 Aug 2020 23:00 BST
Paul Sevigny's Smokeshow checking into the Race Committee for Class 3 - The 64th Gearbuster © Mary Alice Fisher

As sailors, we owe a massive debt of gratitude to volunteers at our clubs and within our classes - without them sailing would either be not as good or a vast amount more expensive to participate in.

Yes, I know many of the 'headline' volunteers are sailors as well, such as the Race Officer of the Day and safety RIB crews being regular sailors who get awarded average points in a series, but there are so many more involved who work tirelessly behind the scenes for little or no recognition.

The reason so many of us are back out on the water and enjoying club racing is often down to volunteers giving up their time to devise Covid-safe plans for each individual club or event. The one-way systems, the sanitising stations, the track and trace implementations, the contactless sign-on systems and the trail of paperwork that is necessary to demonstrate that an effective plan is in place don't just appear, they need meticulous preparation. Some clubs may have a paid secretary and treasurer, maybe more in the larger clubs, but so much of this work is done by people willing to give up their time to help others enjoy their time on the water.

This week is Lymington Junior Week and, due to household bubbles, I'm crewing for my eldest son in his RS Feva. At 47 I'm not surprisingly the oldest competitor, and it's a good 30+ years since I last competed at the event, but the number of volunteers helping out to ensure that the event can run smoothly and safely is staggering. The trolley teams making sure only six dinghies are on the slipway at any one time, the ladies counting the tallies in and out to ensure all the kids (and grown up kids) are counted back in safely, the mark layers, the scorers, the race officers and their assistants, the safety boats and all those people behind the scenes managing the paperwork, uploading the results, updating the website, cleaning just about everything at the moment, reuniting lost boots with kids, sorting a spare sail for a boat to help another team compete... the list goes on!

Ahead of events such as this there are so many volunteers and coaches who get the kids out sailing week in and week out. The coaches are often sailors who have graduated from the youth classes, keen to see the next cohort progress from their club, and the volunteers for these sessions are a combination of parents, but again behind the scenes there are volunteers writing and checking that the compliance is all place, organising the rosters of sailors and support crews, and that club-owned boats are kept in a seaworthy state, allowing kids to enjoy time on the water regardless of whether they own a boat or not.

A race against time

The Foil for Life Challenge by Lemer Pax took place on Friday. Six WASZP sailors, three British and three French, crossed the Channel raising money for the UK's National Health Service (NHS) and France's Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Paris (APHP). With everything in place, a curveball was thrown into the mix with the UK Government announcing quarantine requirements for those returning to the UK after 4am on Saturday.

The team made it to France 2230 CET, and quickly turned around in their support RIBs to make it home in good time and in the process smashing their money-raising target for two such worthy causes.

Passing the Needles foiling was one of the highlights of the trip, together with the camaraderie between the sailors. In a time when closed borders keep us apart, this was a challenge which brought people together.

As founder of the challenge Hattie Rogers said, "There was banter and laughter all the way! We knew it was going to be a long slog, but this rapidly became a sail that we'll remember for the rest of our lives. The French have already invited us to their WASZP Nationals in November and we've reciprocated the invite for the UK Nationals. We were planning our 2021 challenge before we'd made landfall in France - we can't wait to 'send it' again!"

You can still donate via www.foilforlife.com

Kiwi pair set for a massive 2021

Worldwide both everything and nothing is currently happening in grand prix sailing. The America's Cup teams continue to work up their boats, with both NYYC American Magic and Emirates Team New Zealand practicing on the race track off Auckland, subject to new lockdown restrictions.

For two of the biggest names in world sailing, 2021 is going to be a huge year. Peter Burling and Blair Tuke are set to defend the America's Cup, their 49er Olympic title and now have been announced as Co-CEO's of the newly-formed NZ SailGP team. With Sir Ben Ainslie added to the roster, joining Sail GP Season One stars Tom Slingsby and Nathan Outteridge, the restarted Season 2 should make for cracking viewing.

Light wind Whitsundays

In Australia, Airlie Beach Race Week suffered from a combination of light winds most of the week and many of their experienced race officials and volunteers being unable to attend due to Covid travel restrictions. Even so, the sixty-four boat fleet enjoyed glorious winter sunshine and it was great to see another event go ahead in these times.

Record breaking Ida Lewis Distance Race

In the US, the urge to compete and embrace Covid-related event modifications is strong with a record 74 entries taking on the Ida Lewis Distance Race.

Wherever you are sailing in the world, remember those volunteers who make what we do possible. If you're passing a support boat, a cleaner, a scorer, or any kind of helper, then give them a smile and say, 'thank you'. They deserve it.

Mark Jardine
Sail-World.com & YachtsandYachting.com Managing Editor

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