The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been significant on the sport of sailing and our many clubs and Discover Sailing Centres around the country.
The past eight weeks have certainly been tumultuous. From the introduction social distancing regulations to the closing of borders or postponement of the Olympic Games; it is clear that these are not normal times.
During this period Australian Sailing has sought to provide guidance and advice to clubs in order to help you navigate through the ever changing legislative and regulatory landscape.
While primarily focused on the impact on sailing activities, this has also included support for rent relief, access to grants and whole-of-sport advocacy to state and federal governments.
How Australian Sailing is working to support Clubs
Internally, Australian Sailing has made a number of moves to deal with the crisis. This has unfortunately included the difficult decision to make a number of staff redundant.
Our staff have been working from home since the middle of March and while our team has been unable to visit clubs in person, we have been using the time to review the way we operate, our cost base and the way we deliver services.
Our Club Services Officers continue to be actively engaged with our clubs, class associations, officials, instructors, coaches, volunteers and members offering guidance and support, as well as encouragement to review and refresh operations.
We have also used this time to assign staff members to COVID-19-specific project groups which have been designed with one goal in mind: How do we best support clubs to operate and thrive as they emerge from the pandemic?
The project groups will review our resources, programs and communications and are expected to be completed by 31 December 2020. One of these projects has involved moving our Club Race Officer course online, which has proved to be immediately successful, with over 120 club volunteers completing the training across the country in April alone. This shift to online learning is proving popular and additional courses have been planned due to the unprecedented demand (a schedule of event details and registration can be found on our website).
Other actions Australian Sailing has taken to support clubs include:
- Moving our annual Club Conferences, State and National Awards ceremonies to online formats ensuring as many clubs can engage with the processes without breaching physical distancing guidelines
- Conducting a review of all AS programs and services, including adapting instructor, coach and officials courses to the current situation we’re facing
- Deferral of 2020/21 Club Affiliation Fees
- Catalogue of free and useful online courses
- Zhik Australian eSailing National Challenge launched
- Deferral of instructor and coach annual renewal fee and re-accreditation
- Development of OutThere Sailing online inductions for Instructors
- Provided a request for rent relief template for clubs
- Advocate on clubs' behalf via State, Federal Government agencies and industry bodies
Australian Sailing has also worked to minimise the financial impact on our organisation through:
- Requesting rent relief for our offices
- Applying for payroll tax relief
- Applying for various State and Federal Government grants
- Advocating to Federal government for access to JobKeeper
- Non-essential services cancelled (cleaning, mail, rubbish, subscriptions etc).
- All travel cancelled (club visits, interstate, overseas regattas, world sailing)
- Staff requested to reduce Long Service Leave and Annual Leave balances
Deferral of 2020/21 Club Affiliation Fees
Normally around this time of year Australian Sailing would be advising clubs what affiliation fees would be for the coming financial year. Given the financial predicament that most clubs are facing, the Australian Sailing board has decided to postpone making a decision on fees until September when the picture is hopefully clearer. The delay is intended to provide cashflow support to clubs and invoicing will not occur until at least January 2021, a six month delay. You can read more details about the decision here.
Australian Sailing is confident that our structure, which has clubs at the heart of the sport, will see us through the current predicament. As much as clubs rely on individuals to support them, we also are dependent on clubs to help us come out the other side of the crisis in a sound position from which we can continue to support the development of the sport.
Framework for Rebooting Sport
The federal government released its roadmap for returning to sport on Friday 1st May through SportAus and the Australian Institute of Sport. The principles included in the AIS Framework for Rebooting Sport in a COVID-19 Environment for the resumption of sport are designed to address sport at the community (club) level, as well as individual and elite levels. There are three levels (A, B and C) for which there will be progressive relaxation of current restrictions.
For sailing, the initial guidance is still limited.
While a number of steps can be put in place to mitigate risks, until the fundamental constraints of physical distancing (1.5m distance from another person, 4m2 per person and 10 person limits on gatherings) are relaxed or removed, it will be extremely difficult to move beyond single handed dinghies/ boards/ kites for normal sailing activities to resume.
We encourage sailors to adhere to the regulations in their local jurisdictions when making the decision regarding going for a sail. There have been relaxations on the restrictions recently in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory, progressing them beyond what the framework defines as level A.
The situation continues to be fluid, and we will continue to provide appropriate updates in each state as they develop.
Australian Sailing will be working with SportAUS and State Governments to provide greater definition and clarity as to what activities are acceptable for each level and will provide updates as soon as they are available.
A return to sailing
We all want to get back on the water as soon as practically possible. However, it is important that we respect the rules that are currently in force in your jurisdiction so that as a sailing is viewed as part of the solution to a return to normal.
State public health orders are the instruments that are being enforced under state enacted emergency powers. Local police and Maritime are the agencies with the responsibility to enforce these rules. Until the public health orders change, the overarching government advice is still to stay at home.
Clubs running organised activities (including racing) in most states are not “essential activities” and still remain prohibited, likewise our accredited training courses.
We will continue to provide updates on our COVID-19 Information Hub page on our website as well as through your local Australian Sailing office. You are encouraged to contact your local Club Services Officers or Regional Manager for further assistance.
The COVIDSafe app has now been released, and will assist state and territory health officials to quickly contact people who may have been exposed to COVID-19.
We are encouraging the sailing community to download the COVIDSafe app, but note that doing so is completely voluntary.
Downloading the app is something you can do to protect you, your family and friends and save the lives of other Australians. The more Australians connect to the COVIDSafe app, the quicker we can find the virus.