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Adjusting the sails

by MHYC 11 Sep 04:30 BST
MHYC's Adams 10s enjoyed a One-Design winter fleet racing series due to the increased number of crews in Sydney at this time of year © Marg Fraser-Martin

Sailors are by nature resourceful and adapt to changing conditions - if not to maximise the speed of their yacht, then at least to survive.

Adapting to the Covid-19 environment, Middle Harbour Yacht Club has been looking out for the well-being of its members and adapting to changing regulations and advice from authorities. The club has remained ready to restructure and/or reschedule its programs and events, ever motivated to keep its members and others actively connected to their chosen sport and recreation.

MHYC ceased sailing on March 18, just a few days after completing its last major regatta of the season - the MC38 Australian Championships. In an effort to fill the void, eSailing was commenced using the Virtual Regatta platform with racing scheduled three days per week from April until June.

Keelboat racing resumed at MHYC on June 10. Crew Registration was introduced to enable effective Covid-19 tracing and skippers immediately committed to this new responsibility. The Club's Winter Sailing program saw a fifty percent increase in participation this year, mainly due to the Covid-19 travel limitations keeping members in town during the cooler months.

With many crews unable or reluctant to enter the Queensland Regatta circuit, MHYC worked with three other clubs to develop the Breakout Series. Three days of offshore and inshore racing was planned for early August, taking the fleet from Sydney Harbour to Pittwater, Newcastle and Port Stephens. Over sixty entries were received for the event before Covid hotspots developed in Newcastle and Port Stephens, forcing the event to be postponed. The work invested by the four clubs and PRO Denis Thompson in preparing for the series was not in vain, as the event is likely to be rescheduled within the new season.

MHYC's Commodore, Peter Lewis, has taken a leadership role in communications with Australian Sailing, developing cooperation with other clubs, and ensuring there was a consistent response by clubs to changes in Public Health Orders and advice from NSW Health and Australian Sailing. When August saw recommendations to restrict travel across regional and metropolitan zones, the meeting of Club Commodores agreed to limit racing to non-pointscore. As skippers were unable to assemble their usual competitive crews, this move enabled keelboat racing to continue in the Harbour with a new focus on participation.

"The by-product of Covid 19 has been the outstanding cooperation between the Commodore's and their respective clubs," said Commodore Lewis.

"It is envisaged that the group will continue to meet regularly in conjunction with Australian Sailing to further improve our Sport," he said.

Covid-19 has impacted youth sailing too. MHYC was looking forward to hosting Round 1 of the NSW Optimist Association's Traveller Trophy Series in August when updated health advice meant that it could only be a metropolitan event. A COVIDSafe Sailing plan was developed to provide additional protections for the young sailors, including multiple rigging and launching areas and Covid Marshalls.

When metro zone recommendations were later announced, a State Association event was no longer viable - so MHYC pivoted again. The Club's Spring Centreboard Regatta was born and less than two weeks later, twenty four Optimist, Laser and 29er sailors enjoyed the first three races of a six race series on a perfect afternoon for sailing on the harbour.

At a time where much of the news is gloomy, races and series are being cancelled and the future remains uncertain, MHYC has maintained a positive outlook and the ability to respond to changing circumstances.

As it approaches the beginning of a new season, the Club is living the old saying, "I can't control the wind, but I can adjust the sail."

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