The Opti Class is a large enterprise spanning some 150,000 sailors (probably more) worldwide. They all love to sail, and some love to race. Under COVID-19 racing as we know it will not be possible in the near term. That does not mean we can’t race, it means we need to do things differently.
There are many really smart people who race sailboats and organize racing and regattas. Plenty of them are in the medical field. There is tremendous brain power at work right now sorting through the issues of how we can continue to facilitate the development of young sailors in a safe way.
The first recommendation is for us to let kids get back to sailing for the fun of it, simply to enjoy sailing for what it is. Just get them out and let them explore their watery world.
Sailboat racing, like many other things in life, has been heading in the direction of more and more perfection and complication. We are going to be dialing it back. As we ease into racing it will be with fewer people out on the race courses, fewer people on the dock, fewer people at the launch ramp, and with people protecting themselves and those around them.
There will be hand washing stations. Single-handed racing is easy, but Optis require much assistance. Let them learn a little more self-reliance. Become supportive, not by injecting yourself in every facet of their process, but by being the boundary of safety for them. We can reimagine the process by thinking creatively in order to fulfill our first responsibility as a Supporting Adult: keeping the kids safe
Races may be started and finished from a spot on shore as opposed to from a committee boat. Fixed marks may be used, so no mark boat is needed. Stagger returns of the fleet - the coaches can marshall the kids together and facilitate this. Be willing to accept smaller race committees and the ensuing latency. The world has slowed down, we can slow down too and drink in the whole experience again.
Learn to appreciate the passionate people that facilitate this sport for your kid, and let them do their jobs. Before COVID19 we were all in a rush to do everything and get them to regattas and push and push and now - there's no regatta goals to aim for, at least for the next year.
This is a chance to start fresh.
Local racing will start first, followed at some point by regattas for sailors closer to home. National event will be down the road. By focusing first on our home clubs, we can arrive at simple solutions that don’t require much in the way of resources and people.
It is important to keep in mind that we are only a few months into this pandemic and much more has yet to be learned. Baby steps first. Be patient, be an example. There's much more sailing to be done.