With restrictions being eased throughout the UK at various rates, we have had the difficult task of trying to understand what this means for each of us and our activities. There have been bubbles and face coverings, agreement for some and not for others. Even for keen rule followers it has been a bit of a minefield and, in addition to following government guidelines, we have also been asked to apply common sense. You would like to think that as a request this should be redundant but judging by the reaction to the recent sunshine, perhaps not! The mini heatwave in the UK sent the country into meltdown, metaphorically and literally. We have seen overcrowding on beaches where social distancing was forgotten and terms like ‘fly parking’ and ‘dispersal orders’ have become common vernacular. Particularly disheartening has been the extreme littering seen in coastal areas with 41 tonnes of rubbish left on Dorset beaches in just 48 hours. Not only do a small minority of people seem to be taking unnecessary risks with their health and the health of those around them, they also have scant regard for the health of the planet and our oceans.  It was with a very heavy heart that I watched the news showing the extent of the debris strewn across these beautiful beaches.

On a positive note, with coronavirus tests in place, social distancing being observed and no public fans to watch, sport is slowly making a return to our screens and facilities. Be it cricket players living in a bubble, footballers playing to cardboard cut-out fans or horses and jockeys racing past empty stands, there is at least a return for some if not all athletes and sports to training and a number of select events.

Sailing too has had to interpret the rules so that we can return to the water in the safest manner possible, being mindful of the increased pressure our presence on the water puts on the rescue services if something were to happen. The RYA in the UK has been working hard to ensure that sailing opportunities continue, and we can all get back out on the water. Our view of race yachts with multiple people sat side by side along the rail seems a long way off right now, but what has grown considerably has been the number of people taking to a one or two person dinghy and family groups heading off for a sail. The disciplines within our sport that can benefit at this time are solo and double handed sailing.

I have been fortunate to fall into that category and, after a long break, finally felt the wind in my hair and saltwater spray on my face this month. After a period of time off the water, it is easy to feel a little like Bambi on deck, as I adjusted to finding my sea legs and timing to help a boat get efficiently round the Solent. I pulled on ropes with soft hands and hoisted and dropped sails knocking knees and elbows as I did so but loved every minute and hope to be doing more of it over the summer. Double handed sailing on a Sunfast 3300 was just what I needed, and it certainly delivered. Although the volume of boats on the Solent has been steadily increasing in recent weeks it is still a far cry from the usual activity levels at this time of the year and is a comparatively empty stretch of water.

We are also seeing some of the other short-handed sailing competitions get underway again. The Solo Maitre Coq Race in the Figaro 3’s has just finished and La Solitaire is being planned for the end of August. In anticipation of the much awaited Vendee Globe , confirmed to be departing Les Sables d’Olonne on the 8th November 2020, there is a planned warm up race. The Vendee Arctic Race starts on the 4th July and will give the Vendee competitors chance to test their boats and themselves and, for some, providing the reassuring qualification they require for the main event.

So right now, it seems to be the perfect time for short-handed sailing to shine. If you are in a dinghy or a keelboat, alone or with another, enjoy. Stay safe, sail fast and smile at being some of the first people back on the water this year.

Dee Caffari

British yachtswoman Dee Caffari is the first woman to have sailed single-handed and non-stop around the world in both directions and the only woman to have sailed non-stop around the world three times. In 2006 Dee became the first woman to sail solo, non-stop, around the world against the prevailing winds and currents and was awarded an MBE in recognition of her achievement.

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