Coronavirus: Time to Be Proactive

Coronavirus: Officials, Sailors, Parents Should be Proactive -

by Jean-Pierre Kiekens, Oxford educated development economist, former lecturer at the University of Brussels, and sailor.

Note: this is a follow-up to the article Sailing and the Coronavirus - which you are suggested to read prior to this one, if you haven't done so yet. Please share the article, as it will likely be helpful to others

Update: please also watch this March 8 Video by Dr John Campbell about the critical importance of being proactive.


The sailing season is now starting in Europe, with events such as the Valencia Optimist Regatta,  starting tomorrow, with nearly 400 sailors.

These are huge events, with numerous sailors, coaches, parents, officials, club personnel, involved.

Other important events that will come soon are the Garda Optimist Meeting in Northern Italy (over 1,200 registrations) and the Laser 4.7 Europeans in Portugal (400 expected participants).

All these events require months and months of preparation. There are big budgets and sponsorships involved. Huge amount of work is involved, mostly by volunteers.

There is certainly awareness by organizers about the coronavirus, and the issue is how to best deal with this exceptional situation.

Of course, there are plenty of events in other sports that are still going on. But there are also sporting events being postponed or cancelled in places where there are many declared cases, i.e. where many people have fallen sick from the virus, such as in Italy.

So far, authorities are typically recommending that people wash their hands a lot, cover their mouth appropriately when coughing or sneezing, and self-isolate if they start developing symptoms. This for sure helps slow down the spread of the virus. But is this enough?

What we know about the virus, is that it can spread through people who are not yet symptomatic. There is a typical incubation period of one or several weeks before the disease manifests, and in a majority of cases, the symptoms are mild.

Therefore, many people are involuntarily spreading the disease without knowing they have contracted it.

This can happen anywhere, including at sailing events, where there are plenty of social gatherings, shared meals, meetings, and also where most sailors and people involved in the regatta stay in shared accommodation.

What is currently taking place in most countries is that governmental authorities tend to adopt reactive approaches.

This is for example in the UK, where the government has concluded that up to a staggering 80% of the population could get infected, yet, through guidance published yesterday, the UK government « advises that there’s presently no rationale to close or cancel sporting events. »

The UK government adds however that « this may change as the situation evolves. »

For the Valencia Optimist regatta, a notification from the Spanish authorities was published on the event website, stating that « if you develop symptoms of acute respiratory infection … stay at home/accommodation and dial 112 » (emergency number).

The organizers also published some guidance from WHO about protecting others from getting sick (how to deal with coughing and sneezing, and hand washing).

Such recommendations are obviously important, yet they fall short from preventing contracting the virus or spreading it.

Time for Social Distancing

Experts such as Dr John Campbell, who produces amazingly informative daily videos about the virus, stresses the need to be proactive, and from now on, to implement so called "social distancing."

Social distancing is defined by the CDC as “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding local public transportation (e.g., bus, subway, taxi, ride share), and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others.”

Congregate settings are defined by the CDC as "public places where close contact with others may occur. Congregate settings include settings such as shopping centers, movie theaters, stadiums, workplaces, and schools and other classroom settings."

Yes social distancing means not attending big regattas with numerous meetings and social events. And it's also time for home schooling / distance learning, but this we will not analyze here.

With this pandemic, you may not want to wait for the authorities to implement social distancing. They will typically urge that too late.

If you seek to be proactive, as Dr Campbell recommends, the time to implement social distancing is now.

Regarding the Spanish official notice, one also needs to stress that reaching the stage of « acute respiratory infection » before seeking help may be very late, not only for the health of the person but also if one seeks to avoid transmission.

For these Optimist sailors, who are under the age of 16, staying at home/accommodation will mean staying in a shared accommodation with either parents, or other sailors and coaches.

As sharing a room with a sick person, possibly having contracted the disease, is to be avoided at all cost, this poses immediate logistical issues.

There would actually be many issues that would need to be dealt with, including health coverage in a foreign country, possibility of having someone quarantined or hospitalized for a long period, without being able to return home, and so on.

If one sailor gets sick, it may be possible that some of those who share accommodation with the sailor may also be infected. They may not only get sick but also bring the disease home, and become vectors of the virus.

The situation will become very hard to deal with, especially for teams that travel just with coaches, without parents being present.

Regarding the Valencia regatta, note that the virus has been for a while in the city, as tests on a person who died on February 13 in Valencia have now shown he was infected.

Of course, let’s hope for the best. Let’s hope that no transmission of the virus will happen at the regatta and that everyone will be safe.

Yet, with the pandemic growing, it’s our duty to also plan for the worst.

In my opinion, it’s why organizers / federations should be proactive and immediately postpone / cancel the big sailing events, especially the youth sailing events.

As I argued previously, training at the club level, with proper precautions, should be ok.

But attending regattas beyond the club level should be put on hold indefinitely.

We sailors are smart and know that anticipation is a key for success.

We know we need to anticipate wind shifts, rather than react to them.

Here we are talking about a storm, maybe a hurricane, that is coming at us; it's not a wind shift.

My message to everyone is as follows:

It's high time to be proactive when it comes to the coronavirus.

Don’t take any chances.

Stay safe. God bless.

Further Information

Videos about the Need to be Proactive and about “Social Distancing”

by Dr John Campbell

About Social Distancing

Social distancing means remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding local public transportation (e.g., bus, subway, taxi, ride share), and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others.

Source: CDC --

Video of Garda meeting opening ceremonies in 2018, showing the close proximity of sailors from each other at social events:

About Asymptomatic Transmission

CDC’s View on Asymptomatic Transmission

"People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads."

A Person Can Carry And Transmit COVID-19 Without Showing Symptoms, Scientists Confirm

Chinese researchers have confirmed a case of asymptomatic transmission of the new coronavirus: A 20-year-old woman from Wuhan passed it to five of her family members but never got physically sick herself.

Can people who are asymptomatic spread coronavirus?

A person who is asymptomatic may be shedding the virus and could make others ill. How often asymptomatic transmission is occurring is unclear.

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