AFTER two-and-a-half months of Stratford Boat Club being completely closed for all rowing and training, those who have ventured to the river recently will have noticed a small number of boats.
Following advice from the Government and British Rowing – the sport’s governing body – the club’s senior management team formulated phase one of British Rowing’s ‘Return to Rowing Plan’.
After a thorough deep clean to the areas of the club which will be used in this first phase, an online booking system has been implemented in which only six members for a two-hour slot are allowed at the club.
They must adhere to a stringent hygiene policy including washing of hands on entry and when leaving, sanitizing of key touch points of the equipment used, both prior to and after use, together with strict protocols for a safe restricted return to rowing.
Rowing is also limited to the type of hull, so there will only be singles or doubles/pairs of a family composite out on the water as no crew boats are allowed at this stage.
Unfortunately, Stratford Boat Club is not permitted to allow its junior and adaptive squad out on the river due to the need for coaches and safety boats to be in attendance and British Rowing have also recommended coached sessions should not go ahead.
There is an allowance for two members of the same household – one senior and a junior member – to get on to the water in a double/pair hull and this is all laid out in the club and British Rowing documentation.
Dawson Curnock, Stratford BC chairman, said: “Taking all of this into account, the senior management team at the club put all of the necessary documentation, risk assessments, best practices and equipment in place to get the approved members out on to the water and what a magnificent sight it was last Thursday morning to see them out and the river getting back a little normality.
“We await further advice from the Government and our governing body British Rowing to understand what phase two will mean to our club, its members and the River Avon.
“Hopefully Stratford as a town will see some more planned openings to start its long road to recovery!”
Returning to the river after eight weeks were Isobel and Joe Moore in a family double and they said: “There were lots of swans, a paddleboard and a Canadian canoe but very little other river traffic. It was glorious!”
Masters daytime sculler Heather Hayton added: “We’ve been off the water for 62 days. I know so many have had to make greater sacrifices – mine do not measure up!
“With strict guidelines to follow, we have been allowed to return, although only singles and doubles within the same household for now.
“The Avon has never looked so beautiful. I am truly humble and grateful to be back on this river.”