Sniping in the time of COVID

Sniping in the time of COVID Image

by Lisa Pline

As the consequences of the COVID-19 cancellations sink in, many Snipe sailors are not only sad, but worried that our beloved class may not thrive without major regattas  to look forward to and championships to train for. As the Regatta Chair for the now postponed US Snipe Nationals, I share the sadness and concern.  However, as the Fleet Captain for Annapolis Snipe Fleet 532, I realized that this might be a unique opportunity … or at least, I believe that if we are creative, we might be able to make the best of a bad situation.  

I propose we declare 2020 “The Year of the Local”.

As a Fleet Captain who is an active sailor, it is sometimes way too easy to ignore the opportunities right in front of me because our boats are packed up for the next regatta, we are planning for the next event or we are just stressed out about work/other responsibilities. What if we took that energy and invested it back into building our local fleets? With regattas and championships cancelled for all classes, perhaps we can invite people from other classes to sail with us locally (when allowed) who may have never had the time before. Junior Programs and most summer camps are in limbo right now, but maybe those typically over-scheduled juniors will be more open to sailing with their parents. College and scholastic sailors who missed their Spring Season are itching to get back in a dinghy.  Not to mention that with an economy likely to be in bad shape for a while, sailing a Snipe is much more economical than campaigning a big boat.

In Maryland, our Governor has laid out a 3 Phase “opening”, so our “Year of the Local” strategy is in 3 phases:

Phase Zero (now):  Shelter in Place

  • Create online content to engage current and prospective members
  • Work on “fleet assets” with video/picture tutorials for people whom boat work may not come naturally (boat/trailer repair)
  • Encourage fleet members to do that boat work that is so easy to put off
  • Host online Fleet meetings or Happy Hours (via Zoom or Google Hangouts or equivalent) to engage fleet members

Alex & I have combined the first points with some Facebook Live content around Alex fixing up our fleet’s “Lease to Own” boat.  This has generated some lively discussion around boat work and “how to’s” for fleet members to review issues they may have and work on fixing them without the pressure of an upcoming regatta. Replacing the mast lever with a line-based system on the older JibeTechs has been very popular and our pictures of this have motivated several fleet members to make this modification.

Phase One (hopefully mid-May):  “Low Risk” activities allowed (recreational boating but strict limits on social gathering)

  • Create online content to prep for sailing season (sailing skills webinars, etc)
  • Encourage members to take boats out for Solo Practicing – and verifying any boat modifications are working properly
  • Reach out to prospective members who might want to take a spin in a Snipe

We are promoting webinars hosted by local clubs and sailmakers such as Dave Dellenbaugh’s Speed Smarts being organized by our club.  I am working on an article “From the Experts” on “Tips for Solo Practicing”.  Maybe even a contest or log for members to “compete” for number of hours/practice sessions?  I am sure there are some creative ways to make us be able to “solo together”.  Also, with boats not being used as much by owners, they may be more open to letting new sailors go out for a spin.

Phase Two:  “Medium Risk” activities allowed (social gathering up to 10-20 – club may or may not be officially open)

  • Encourage ad hoc small group practicing (2-5 boats)
  • Reach out to smaller groups of sailors (college sailors, women’s sailors, Snipe alumni) to practice together
  • Continue online content / promotion

Younger sailors in particular are more in tune with the idea of practicing and really seem to enjoy the activity – who knows, maybe us old, jaded folks could learn something! I recently had a “prospect” ask me specifically about how active Snipe sailors were with ad hoc practicing. I had to admit that for our fleet, “not much”.  I think this is the year to change that!  Our club and some of our members have boats that could provide support/videoing which could easily be shared online. It might make sense to encourage “pockets” of prospective sailors to go out together.   College sailors one time; women’s sailors another.  Birds of a feather like to flock together!  These could be scheduled or ad hoc as the weather forecast predicts a beautiful day.

Phase Three: “High Risk” activities allowed (social distance and gathering limits lifted)

  • Run Clinics
  • Create “Pop Up” racing/regattas
  • Schedule “long distance” or other fun-style racing

Once the social gathering restrictions are lifted and most regattas have been long since cancelled, clinics are a great way to engage local sailors.  Again, these can be on a certain topics (crew clinics, starting clinics, etc) or targeted at certain prospect groups (women’s clinics, junior clinics, etc).  These do not need to be formal and can be set up on short notice.  Similarly, assuming clubs have open schedules (prior regattas long since cancelled), “pop up” racing/regattas could be scheduled with low expectations for support boats, trophies (winner gets a case of beer?) etc.  Some may travel regionally to attend, but the main target would be the local fleet.  Other events that focus on the “Serious Fun” might make sense as well.  Here on the Chesapeake, we may finally hold that long distance race we’ve talked about for years but never done out to a fleet members house across the bay for a picnic.

Let’s keep sharing the ideas and our love for the Snipe!  Look forward to seeing you locally and online in 2020 and in Annapolis and around the world in 2021.




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