We don't want to forget 2020, the goodwill, support and friendship from staff and customers can never be diminished.
We’re beyond lucky, as an outdoor operator we’ve been able to safely operate more of our courses and programmes than most would imagine. However, this wouldn’t have been possible without the overwhelming support of all our customers and students, who fully cooperated with every measure, change due to restrictions and direction.
Unfortunately, the restrictions have meant that participation figures have fallen dramatically. We’ve seen around half of the 2019 participation levels of 8,000 students, and while that obviously has been a financial challenge, the level of appreciation we have for each of our participants in 2020 is unmeasurable, you’ve literally kept us afloat and the team employed.
From late February the phone stopped ringing, those of us who were here in 2008/9 started to remember the sinking feeling – there’s no point being open if we don’t have people afloat. Like many other sectors of society, we closed in March, confident that despite our forthcoming struggles it was the right thing to do. A major disappointment was the loss of the entire Spring/Summer Schools’ Sailing Programmes, with over 1,000 youngsters due to go afloat.
We deal with circumstances beyond our control effecting courses and lessons all the time – we need the weather to sail, but sometimes it prevents it. Our number 1 rule is to only do what can be done safely, so we just had to look at COVID-19 in the same way.
The lockdown was used productively, our team of instructors quickly got together to produce “Sailing School from Home”, partly to keep occupied, but also to provide everyone, adults and children, something to do to keep connected to the Sea and fill in a bit of time each day. Over 2,000 of you visited the section, and we’re keeping it there and integrating the resources into all of our courses.
We also focused in on developing a comprehensive plan for operating with COVID-19, and again huge thanks is due to all the instructors who worked together on Zoom to develop this plan and stress test it prior to any re-opening.
So with everything in place, the smallest summer sailing course in all our memories got underway on the 8th of June, and it went off without a hitch. We’ve really got to once again thank all the parents and students, with changing rooms closed they were travelling to and from sailing in their wetsuits. For a flavour of the time afloat, check out this video of Summer 2020.
As restrictions eased we were able to increase attendance on our Summer courses, but we know there were many disappointed not to get a space. We’re very sorry for this, it’s been a very hard thing to turn away keen sailors.
Adult dinghy sailing, yachting and powerboat courses also re-commenced in June albeit with much smaller course numbers than usual. Keelboat sailing got underway again in August.
Autumn routinely sees another 1,000 second level students come and try sailing and kayaking as part of the Transition Year Syllabus, with many attending for multiple weeks learning a new skill. While we were able to get many afloat, we couldn’t accommodate everyone. We are very grateful to the teachers who gave up their time freely to help us craft a response to delivering these programmes, while working in a manner that extended all the measures in place in school’s to the watersports environment, resulting in a different but still worthwhile set of activities for youngsters.
With the re-introduction of restrictions, we progressively reduced and cancelled courses. As in March, customers with effected bookings were more than helpful, many needed convincing to get refunds as most were more than happy to defer bookings to a later date. We’ll be forever grateful to our customers for this support.
As Level 5 approached, concern for our Saturday Sailing Children’s Programme emerged. From September, we’d set it up to work as groups of 15, all sailing single handed and not mixing with other groups. When the Level 5 measures were announced with children’s sport permitted to continue in very limited circumstances, we took our time to ensure we could do it safely. Our instructors and our sailors parents all deserve huge praise for making this work, but maybe on this occasion, the sailors themselves who kept going through sometimes awful weather without ever going inside to take shelter on some of the colder day deserve the highest of praise for their perseverance and determination.
Looking to 2021
We’re being realistic about next year. We assume that our 2021 schedule will once again be chopping and changing, and we may yet have to close again. We’ll continue to be flexible for customers and ensure that all decisions are taken with our staff, our customers, their families and the whole community’s safety as the overriding concern.
We hope to see you on the water in 2021 when it’s safe to do so.
A list of thanks…
There’s an enormous list of people and organisations that need to be thanked for all their help this year, so here’s a few thanks that we’d like to highlight
- Dun Laoghaire Harbour – division of DLRCC – a major thank you to Tim, Simon and the team from Harbour Police and maintenance. Help with new bicycle parking, flexibility on shoreside operations and general support are much appreciated.
- Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council – Back in June DLRCC rapidly installed bicycle racks near to our three locations on the West side of Dun Laoghaire Harbour. We’re happy to report they were used extensively by our junior sailors, allowing them to make their own way to sailing in light of the restrictions on public transport use. And, a thank you to the council architects, the new cycleway along the coast has been routinely used by staff and students to safely get to sailing. We didn’t have a view one way or the other on it, but now are supporters having seen the kids cycling to sailing.
- DLR Enterprise Office – for support in terms of advise, help with adaption grants and business supports. There’s no way that the entire financial hit could have been compensated, but the help was nevertheless vital.
- Irish Sailing – the guideline interpretation for training activities was hugely appreciated.
- Royal Yachting Association – likewise, the advise provided by the RYA helped us get back up and running while benefiting from a huge network of people and their ideas.
- Irish National Sailing Club Members – there’s a great group who back in May volunteered to give the new systems a thorough test, ensuring that these new procedures both worked and were practical. Thank you for the help re-opening.
- There’s a boat load of individuals who provided support this year, far too many to thank here, your support won’t be forgotten.