US SAILING Communications Manager
In August, the Pensacola Yacht Club (Fla.) hosted the 2010 U.S. Singlehanded Championships, a US SAILING National Championship event. US SAILING, the event chair, and the yacht club race organizers were presented with a number of challenges this year. Potential for oil spill contaminated waters and tropical storm warnings on the horizon threatened this year's championship. Find out what U.S. Singlehanded Championship Chairperson Martine Zurinskas and Event Chair John Matthews had to say about these challenges. What decisions had to be made? How did they arrive at solutions?
US SAILING: How did you monitor the contaminated waters prior to and during the championship? What message were you communicating to competitors and their families about the oil spill’s effect on Pensacola Bay?
Martine & John: The entire Pensacola Bay area was directly under a designated US Coast Guard representative that had overall responsibility for any situation involving the presence of oil in Pensacola Bay. It was very easy to maintain contact with this individual and determine what actions might be necessary regarding the racing on the bay. However, during the entire time of the Championships, we had absolutely no evidence of oil anywhere near, in, or around the Bay.
As far as communicating a message to competitors, we simply let them know there was absolutely no problem of oil in the bay.
US SAILING: Discuss the process of having a Plan-B host site for this championship. What was it? How would that have worked in terms of race management, operations, staffing, travel considerations, etc.?
Martine & John: Pensacola Bay is fortunate to be located where it is. We had alternate venues all within 3 to 5 miles of the yacht club, which could have served as the racing venue including Escambia Bay, North Escambia Bay, and Blackwater Bayou, which was the most distant. The only concern about having the championships raced in these waters was getting the boats moved from PYC to the selected site. Arrangements to transport the boats and competitors to the selected site was planned for in case it was necessary. The maximum impact would have been adding about an hour of travel to and from the sites. Other than the added travel time, the race management, operations, and staffing remained the same.
Six weeks prior to our championship was the cut-off date to make any venue changes. We worked with US SAILING to map out a potential Plan B venue that was removed from Gulf Coast waters. A plan was roughly laid out that included transporting key PYC event team personnel to execute the championship. PYC had their planning meeting six weeks out, which confirmed logistics and alternate local venues. Everyone at US SAILING and PYC felt comfortable keeping the event at PYC. It was reassuring for the US SAILING to know that various local venues were explored.
US SAILING: What planning went into possible tropical storm considerations? What decisions needed to be made?
Martine & John: Based upon several previous experiences with tropical storms and our planning processes, the only decision we would have had to make is when to cancel the racing. There would have been no alternate site to move to had a tropical storm been identified for our area. Racing takes a back seat to preparing for the effects of tropical storms in the Pensacola Bay area. The decision would have been made about 96 hours out in order to get all facilities, equipment, and gear properly moved, stowed, and protected including all race management boats. They are all moved out of the water for protection. Remember, it is not just Yacht Club Race Management equipment and facilities it is also the members’ facilities and equipment that has to be considered.
About US SAILING
The United States Sailing Association (US SAILING), the national governing body for sailing, provides leadership for the sport in the United States. Founded in 1897 and headquartered in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, US SAILING is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. US SAILING offers training and education programs for instructors and race officials, supports a wide range of sailing organizations and communities, issues offshore rating certificates, and provides administration and oversight of competitive sailing across the country, including National Championships and the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics. For more information, please visit www.ussailing.org.