Given the current weather it is fortunate that for most of us that the boats are safely stowed ashore out of harm's way. However, the new season will quickly be upon us and thought is already being given to some changes for 2010. Before Christmas the JCC organised a very useful meeting attended by each of the clubs in Burnham. The main purpose was to look ahead and try to anticipate what the Wallasea project means for racing on the river, and to start to consider how problems and difficulties can be dealt with and overcome. The immediate problem is that there is no certainty as to when shipping movements will begin in earnest (or possibly at all).
However, assuming the worst, a large dock/pontoon will appear during the season on the south shore in the vicinity of No.1. In 2010 shipping movements will (apparently) be relatively infrequent with the figure of 1 per day being quoted. By the following season the figure will be much higher, perhaps 6 per day, but it may be more. I think that there are two main points here. Firstly, it is likely that we will lose most of the south shore to the east of the moorings quite early in the season. The pontoon will go into deep water and be, say, 200 metres long. Running passed that against the tide is unlikely to be attractive, and bye laws will no doubt require us to keep clear. We therefore have to be ready to use the north shore as our route to and from the Roach. It may therefore make sense to stop using No.3 as our first mark. This brings me to my second point, which is that because the shipping movements will be less frequent this season, we have time to adapt, and to do this in a progressive way, learning as we go. We do not have to rush to find the answer to absolutely everything.
As a first step the number of course cards used by the fleets will be reduced to two, one for Elites, 707s and Dragons, which will be the current Dragon course card with some amendments, and the other being the current course card for the Squibs, RCODs and RBODs with some amendments. This will mean that as we adapt our courses we will have fewer courses to change. The revised course cards will deal with the issue of designating which marks, if any, are passing as opposed to rounding marks. They will also make use of Greenward as the starboard hand mark going into the Roach and Redward as a port hand mark for coming out. The JCC are making sure that both marks, appropriately positioned, will be laid in good time for racing.
The only influence that the clubs have in the timing of shipping movements is through a shipping management plan that is required by a condition of the project planning consent. There is much scepticism about how much, if any, influence can actually be exerted through this mechanism, but as it is the only game in town, it seems sensible to play. Edwin Buckley is leading the collection of the relevant data that we need to put forward as part of the process of the plan being agreed, with a view to the disruption of our sailing being limited. Only time will tell as to how much can be achieved, but the better we present our case the more chance we have of improving the position. We are lucky that Edwin has agreed to take on what will be a difficult and time consuming task.