The British Sailing Team is preparing to move to the next phase of its return to training following the latest Government guidance for elite sport.
Recreational sailing alone or with members of your household has been permitted in England since May 13, allowing some British Sailing Team members to get out on the water for the first time in two months.
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) issued guidance to elite sports on the same day outlining a phased return to training, and on May 20 the British Sailing Team moved to Stage One. This permitted singlehanded sailors and doublehanded crews from the same household to take part in individual organised training.
As of Monday June 1, the British Sailing Team will move to Stage Two, which will allow doublehanded sailors who don’t live in the same house – including reigning Olympic gold medallist Hannah Mills and her crew Eilidh McIntyre – to train together. It will also allow athletes to train in squads under the guidance of their coaches.
This dispensation is afforded to elite sports under the Government’s latest guidelines for a phased return to training and does not yet apply to members of the general public. The RYA’s guidance for boaters can be found here.
As a precaution, crews will only be allowed to sail within their normal pairing. Extra processes for ensuring health and safety while rigging and de-rigging will also be implemented.
As per the DCMS guidelines, all British Sailing Team athletes, coaches and support staff have to opt in to return to training, and there is no obligation for anyone to do so.
Screening will take place each day before any athlete or coach begins training, and each athlete will work with their coach to carry out a risk assessment of their training plans. Social distancing measures continue to be important and will remain in place for everyone except those who live together.
The British Sailing Team’s swift return to the water has been aided by the actions of staff at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, who quickly put in place safety measures to allow sailors to access their boats and slipways.
Social distancing rules measures have been implemented in the boat park as well as extra hand washing stations. Launch times are staggered to avoid congestion in the boat park or on slipways. The main academy building remains closed until guidelines allow it to reopen. The British Sailing Team’s indoor training facilities are also currently closed.
The new steps will allow those sailors selected to represent Team GB at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – supported by their training partners, team mates and support staff – to refocus on performance with 13 months to go until the rescheduled Games.
Mark Robinson, the RYA’s Olympic Performance Manager, said: “We welcome the latest guidelines from DCMS that will allow our doublehanded teams from differing households to train together.
“All 15 athletes selected for Team GB at Tokyo 2020 will now be able to get back on the water and resume training in their squads.
“However, this is just one small part of a phased return to training for the team. We are all too aware of the threat that Covid-19 still poses and we will continue to do all we can to safeguard our sailors, staff and the wider community.
“Our ability to return to training in this way is an allowance that we don’t take lightly, and we will continue to work with our sport science and medicine team as well as UK Sport, EIS and the Government to ensure appropriate safety measures are in place.”
Among those looking forward to the prospect of returning to the water are current 49er European champions Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell, Team GB’s choice in the class for Tokyo 2020.
“Dylan and I are buzzing to get back out on the water together for the first time in a few months,” said Bithell, a silver medallist at London 2012 in the 470. “It’s an important step to getting back on the pathway to success at Tokyo 2020, which remains our ultimate goal.”