COMMODORE’S UPDATE – MAY 2020
The most important message to convey in this Update is that I hope you are enjoying good health and continue to do so.
Little has changed in terms of existing operations since my March Update, and uncertainty still clouds so much of the future, not helped by the Welsh government’s divergence on policy from Westminster, but I think that we have a reasonably clear idea of a number of things relevant to our summer season.
Without wishing to risk drawing attention to what we’re all missing, we have not been idle and have been making the most of the enforced closure. A small, socially-distanced team under Mike’s management has been busy in the bar in a Herculean effort to shift the ten remaining barrels of beer! Remarkably, they’ve also been doing a tremendous job with paint and varnish brushes giving the bar a much-needed thorough make-over, and giving the whole place a lift. A new state of the art cellar system, SmartDispense, has been installed which guarantees the delivery of consistently high-quality beer and cider, whilst Malcolm has been installing new drainage in the cellar room to enable thorough regular cleaning. Mike will report more fully when it is finished and, whilst it seems likely that it will be August at the earliest before we are able to open, we’ll have a bar that does justice to the view and a far more pleasant place for members to spend time in. As and when we are able to return Simon, our new Bar Manager, will be ready to welcome you to the smartest venue in town with the best views in the UK. How he’ll pour your drink without touching the glass, throw the glass to you from two metres away without spilling anything, and how you’ll drink it through your mask if you manage to catch it are questions for another day!
Sailing and other water-based outdoor leisure activities are now permitted in England but not in Wales. A great deal of uncertainty remains but I think that there is a reasonable degree of certainty over what will not change and which impacts upon our sailing programme:
The existing lockdown in Wales remains in place and will be reviewed at the end of this month. There is no indication when non-essential travel to North Wales will be permitted
Regardless of any relaxation of restrictions on permitted social and business activities, and personal movement, we are in for the long-haul with social-distancing – almost certainly beyond the end of the season
The ban on large gatherings will also remain in place for the foreseeable future
Cafes and restaurants may be permitted to open in July in England, but no indication yet in Wales
Bars may be permitted to open in August in England but no indication yet in Wales
Even if travel restrictions are lifted in the next few months to enable holidaymakers to travel to North Wales, which is uncertain given the messaging (Mark Drakeford on the Today programme on 15th May said that any return of tourism would have to be “with the blessing of the local community”) there are, I think, a number of key factors which inform our decisions.
Practicalities of launches/safety boats/committee boats with social distancing and hygene protocol
It will not be possible to provide a viable operation whilst maintaining social-distancing and hygene protocol – two metre separation, cleaning of surfaces, members of the same household only etc. And, of course, many of the crews would be in the same position themselves.
A continued ban on larger gatherings effectively prevents us from hosting events. Registration, briefings and prize-givings would be impossible and, with the bar closed, the absence of a social programme would rob the event of its meaning. Notwithstanding the existing ban, implementing and ensuring a Covid-compliant environment whilst hosting a large event in our Clubhouse is all but impossible given the physical constraints and our resources.
We would need the full fleet of launches, safety boats and team of seasonal staff to host events. It is expensive, and the financial viability is entirely dependent upon the revenue generated by the social programme and bar sales. In the absence of this income we would have to fund the events out of our cash reserves which we must preserve. If we are able to provide any waterside operation this season, any cash spent should be to facilitate members’ sailing and not on events for non-members.
All of the above factors lead us to the following decisions:
Dinghy Week and Mirror Week
Regrettably, we have little option other than to cancel both of these events this year. It is a great shame, particularly given the amount of work that Selina and Jon have put into Dinghy Week and Pete into Mirror Week. It will also be a big disappointment to regular visitors, but we will do what we can to encourage them to book early for 2021.
Keelboat Week and Club Racing Programme
Entrants in the Club’s racing programme are obviously all members and Keelboat Week entrants are, in the main, also members. We will remain committed until it is absolutely not possible, to providing something for members this season. Any resources used to provide racing will be for the benefit of members. I’m sure that you all recognise that the chances are slim but, if we can, we will.
Whilst the likelihood of a comprehensive racing programme this season is slim, sailing is now permitted in England so, if Wales follows the lead, we may be able to get back on the water soon. Whether those of us on the wrong side of the border will be able to get there is another matter! Our challenge will be to operate a launch service in a Covid-compliant manner but we are on standby with launches and moorings ready and, if we are able to agree a protocol that will allow us to provide a restricted service, and there is a demand, we will do so.
This is a rather lengthy explanation of the position but the waterside operations are so fundamental to Club membership that I wanted to explain in full to you why we arrive at the position we do – and I’ve never been one to use one word where ten will do!
I referred above to the challenges that we are facing when considering how to operate in a Covid-compliant manner – challenges that I am sure many members will be grappling with in their own working environments. RYA has issued guidance recently which illustrates those challenges. Here is the link if you are interested in reading it which I think helps further in understanding the background to the decisions that we are taking. https://www.rya.org.uk/SiteCollectionDocuments/clubs/Club_Guidance_Covid19_v1%200%20(3).pdf?utm_campaign=%7b~messageName~%7d&utm_source=emailCampaign&utm_content=%7b~mailVariationId~%7d&utm_medium=email
Just by way of update Stacey continues to man the office and deal with the day-to-day administrative tasks that continue unabated. Simon, as reported above, is busy working on the bar, and our waterside team of Mike and Conan has been furloughed. It goes without saying that we will not be employing any seasonal staff this year.
I referred in my March Update to the number of subscriptions that remained unpaid, and urged those who had not paid to do so.
Can I first thank you for paying your subscription and supporting the Club through what will be a challenging period. The level of support is a great testament to members’ commitment to the Club and points towards a bright future once we emerge into some sort of normality.
Inevitably, and unfortunately, a number of members did not respond and their memberships have now lapsed. I think it is important to know that we made every effort to explain the position, emphasise the Club’s willingness to be flexible and to offer a helping hand to anyone in difficulties, so am attaching a copy of the letter that was sent at the end of April to those who had not paid. No response has been received from those members whose memberships have lapsed.
Annual General Meeting
As you will be aware the AGM, which had been scheduled for 12th April was postponed and we are now going through the rather bizarre process, dictated by our Articles, of postponing weekly in the absence of a quorum of twenty-five. As a private company we are not bound by law to hold an AGM but rather by the terms of our Articles. We could stage a virtual AGM with the required quorum of twenty-five as a box-ticking exercise but it seems to me that the principal purpose of our AGM is to provide an opportunity for members to gather together, hear what the Council has to say and ask any questions that they have concerning the Club.
We have already supplied the Accounts, which is the one thing required by law, so I think that common-sense says that we simply agree to postpone it indefinitely until such a time as we are again able to gather members together. This will place us in technical breach of our Articles but these are unprecedented times and, unless anyone objects, that is what I propose to do.
Alternatively, we carry on with the charade of weekly postponements until holding a virtual AGM before 21st July, being fifteen months since the AGM in April 2019.
I mentioned in my March Update the difficulties that we were having with the website and which explained the generally unsatisfactory state of the site. We have been working on it and are very close to releasing a new site which should resolve the problems with the existing one.
So, whilst we would obviously prefer not to be closed, we are, at least, making the most of the opportunity that it presents to tackle jobs that need doing around the Club.
Before signing off, can I emphasise what I have said above - that we will do whatever we can to provide some sort of service this season if we are able to. We’ll keep you updated as and when Government guidance provides further clarity.
With best wishes, and continuing hope that we will see you at the Club this season.