Sailors, Officials, Volunteers at Risk at Oceania & Australian Laser Masters Championships?

Suggestion to the organizers: cancel NOW!

March 17 Update: contrary to initial reports that the event was interrupted after a day, the sailing went on, with races on March 15, 16 and 17. See results here.

When announcing that the Oceania & Australian Laser Masters Championships were maintained, from March 14 to 18 in Geelong, Victoria, AUS, organizers sought to reassure sailors by stating that:

« With 165 competitors entered, the event falls within the guidelines announced by the Australian Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison. Mr Morrison advised that any nonessential gatherings of 500 or more people would be banned from next Monday, March 16 as a precautionary measure. »

In addition, the organizers of this event provided guidance to sailors regarding COVID-19.

Now, are the sailors safe thanks to these steps taken by the organizers, which rely on governmental guidance?

Reality is that the 500 limit to nonessential gatherings by the Australian government is totally arbitrary and is not based on a sound understanding of what is going on.

Simply contrasting with the measures taken in countries such as Italy, France and Spain, indicates the 500 limit is totally unsafe and irresponsible.

An event with 165 competitors, plus race officials, plus volunteers, plus staff members and others, is a substantial event in size, and is obviously highly vulnerable to coronavirus contamination.

The organizers rightly stressed that they cancelled social events. But there is very little attention to the crucial need to strictly implement social distancing.

It’s only if you dig further, in the hyperlink referring to the prevention guidelines of the Australian Department of Health, that there is a brief reference to social distancing.

« Exercise personal responsibility for social distancing measures » states the governmental website, without any further explanation.

Social distancing, when implemented strictly, has plenty of implications that will unlikely be implemented at this championship. This includes no shaking of hands, not staying closer than 2 meters from any one else at any time, to name just two key elements.

Yes, as covered previously on this blog, a key characteristic of the coronavirus is that infected people can be asymptomatic during one, two weeks or more, and spread the virus during that period, without any knowledge they are contagious. This is not addressed in the Australian guidelines referred to the Laser sailors participating in the regatta.

Actually, the Australian official guidelines are highly questionable. They put much more emphasis on not using surgical masks than on implementing social distancing, which is the critical element at this stage of the pandemic, in addition to hands washing and coughing / sneezing etiquette.

The Australian guidelines are in fact highly misleading. They state: « if unwell, avoid contact with others (stay more than 1.5 meters from people) » while you actually should self-isolate immediately and seek medical help if your situation deteriorates.

Staying around others, if unwell, is the last thing to do. The virus is known to spread much longer distances than the 1.5 meters mentioned in the guidelines.

Of course, race officials are not epidemiology or public health experts. But it does not take much of an in-depth analysis to demonstrate that the prevention measures recommended for this event are totally insufficient.

And of course, there won’t be any guarantee they will be respected. Which one of the sailors participating in the regatta has not shaken hands with anyone?

Many many sailing events have recently been cancelled worldwide, including the Princess Sofia Regatta, the Genoa World Cup and the Garda meeting.

For its part, the Laser class ILCA, indefinetly postponed the Master Worlds, that were due to take place, just after, in the same location as the Oceania and Australian championships on March 19-28.

Why would the Worlds be unsafe but the Oceania / Australia championships be safe? Clearly, some form of compromise was reached - it was not a public health founded decision.

Also the European branch of ILCA postponed both its 4.7 and its Masters European championships.

Question: are sailors, officials and volunteers at risk at the Oceania & Australian Laser Masters Championships?

Well, draw your own conclusion!

Here is a suggestion to organizers: cancel this event NOW.

Yet, as the decision to maintain the event was taken today, it's unlikely to happen.

In this context, let's hope those sailors will be safe, despite the risks.

Another surprise could actually happen: there is word of possible lockdowns in Australia, similarly as what is implemented in some European countries.

Return home may also be high risk - as there are huge issues at airports such as the Chicago one (see picture)

Against this background, keep this in mind: wherever you are, it’s high time to #StayTheFuckHome!

Please spread the message to others about how important it is to be as proactive as possible and to avoid contracting and spreading the deadly COVID-19 virus.

If you haven't done so yet, please read those articles:

Sailing and the Coronavirus, and
Coronavirus: Time to be Proactive.

Be safe!

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