Return to Rowing Protocols – FAQ


Frequently Asked Questions

Rowing Ireland received a number of queries from clubs regarding their implementation of the Return to Rowing Protocol. The following Questions and Answers attempts to cover all themes of the questions asked and should help clubs adhere to the Protocol and government guidelines. 

This FAQ should be used in addition to the Return to Rowing Protocol and not in lieu of it. 

5km boundary                                                 

Question: Can athletes relocate closer to the club for the duration of phase 1 of the lifting of restrictions? E.g. if they have a holiday home near the club or do they have to remain at their principal residence?              

Answer: Travelling outside the 5km guidance is not in the spirit of the return phase. A decision to travel beyond the 5-kilometre boundary from one’s home is a decision of the individual and no relation to the club. We have received correspondence from Sport Ireland that states “‘People should not travel outside the 5km limit to access facilities such as golf or tennis clubs”.

Access to the boathouse              

Question: Phases 1-3 refer to “clubhouse and indoor facilities” remaining closed, but what about boathouses for access to boats and equipment, clean water/first aid (while keeping gyms, changing rooms, social areas closed).               

Answer: A sensible approach needs to be taken while analysing risk while adhering to public health advice. A protocol should be put in place to ensure social distancing can be maintained while entering and leaving the boathouse, that all touched surfaces are cleaned after use, and that access is kept to a minimum. While adhering to safety, safeguarding and other key athlete welfare recommendations.

Access to toilets 

Question: With the guidelines suggesting that Clubhouses are off-limits, what is the guidance on access to toilets? 

Answer: The use of club toilets should be avoided as much as possible. Club members should use their toilet before they leave their home. In the case that club toilets have to be used, a cleaning protocol should be put in place with signs and instructions in the toilets. Disinfectant wipes should be provided. The protocol must ensure that everything touched is wiped down – taps, flusher, door handles and seat etc. and cleaning material can be disposed of.

Championship and Racing           

Question: Do you foresee a Championships of some description happening in September as initially planned? And is there any plan for events from September onwards? 

Answer: Rowing Ireland look at a contingency plan regarding an Irish Championship or Festival of Rowing in September some of the regattas before the Championship and possibly afterwards. This matter is reviewed weekly by the COVID-19 Working Group. They will follow HSE and government guidelines and will make timely updates when further government advice is received. Given the pandemic is a relatively new disease it is difficult to know what the situation will be in four months’ time, however, we are preparing in the hope that public health guidelines will allow us to hold some form of regatta’s


Question: We at the Coastal Rowing (Yawl Boats) would always have five people inside the boat as well as a slip safety person that has to physically have contact entering and exiting the boats via a helping hand. What category do we fall under in terms of a return to the boats?       

Answer: In line with Public Health guidelines, we are recommending single sculling only at this time. No crew boats are possible in the early stages of the protocol. This will be reviewed at each stage, and the protocol will be updated when it is deemed safe to return to crew boats. Clubs need to be concerned about “the slipstream effect” in crew boats, and we need to wait to ascertain more guidance on this.


Question: Regards ERG training, we have the use of a small hall which would fit 4-6 machines at your 2-metre distance. Where do we stand at regarding the number of people for a training session to include coaches? As per Best Practice, any session would have to have a minimum of 2 coaches present.

Answer: All gym facilities should remain closed. Rowers should be encouraged to train individually in their own homes. The return to sport in the early stages of government guidelines is that only outdoor sport should be facilitated.

Training groups of 4       

Question: Can there be multiple groups of four on the water at the same time on the basis that there are no more than four on the shore at any one time.   

Answer: Training groups refer to athletes working with one coach. This group should be limited to 4 people, including the coach. This is based on government guidelines that we should not congregate in groups larger than 4. We need to bear in mind other risks in our sport as we have outlined in previous questions.

Groups of four are more a consideration while together on the bank, pre or post-training session. It allows athletes and coach to adhere to social distancing during their time at the club. Where possible training groups arriving at the club should be staggered. While on the water, with all athletes in single sculls only, it is most likely that social distancing will be maintain 

Numbers in training groups        

Question: In phase 2, which starts on June 8th, the document says that training may take place in small peer groups. What numbers does a small peer group consist of?        

Answer: This is in adherence to the government guidelines. “People can take part in outdoor sporting and fitness activities, involving team sports training in small groups (but not matches) where social distancing can be maintained and where there is no contact.” Clubs will need to assess in Phase 2 what small training group they can accommodate while enabling social distancing. For Phase 1, the training group cannot exceed four people.

Slipstream and Social Distancing on the water    

Question: The document mentions the ‘slipstream effect’. What is the likely effect of this, and how does it fit into socially distancing of 2 metres at all times? How do we row and social distance at the same time?

Answer: The slipstream refers to respiratory droplets transmitted when exercising behind an athlete. This could have implications on the distance between athletes when exercising and rowing. It could mean that the distance between athletes while exercising needs to be greater than 2 meters and will affect the return to crew boats. An excellent example of a classic slipstream is if you were sitting in your car and the car in front of you puts their windscreen wash on. However, it also hits cfyour car. We are working with other National Rowing Bodies and FISA medical commission to ascertain the risk of this in our sport. An outlined given this virus is novel we are all learning a lot and research has not taken place. An update will be provided when this is better understood and in later Phases when it looks like the return to crew boats is more likely. This should not be an issue with sculling only.

Social distancing in the launch   

Question: Ideally, coach/safety launches require more than one occupant in the interests of safety. Most launches would not provide the 2.00m distance requirement. What guidance do you have in this circumstance?                

Answer: Unfortunately, if social distancing cannot be accommodated, we cannot recommend that the function is performed. A possible solution is that the two occupants in a launch where they cannot socially distance from each other, are from the same family unit.

Social distancing when getting into and out of boats       

Question: In the case where a scull or 2X required assistance at the slipway while entering or leaving their craft (e.g., coach or assistant holding rigger, passing over blades), what advice can be given? This would be particularly relevant to clubs using sloping slips rather than floating pontoons.

Answer: At this time, beginner or less competent scullers should not return to rowing. Ideally, athletes would be able to get into and out of the craft without assistance. Where this might not be the case, only persons of the same family unit can come within 2 meters of each other and provide assistance in this way.

Social distancing when getting launch in and out 

Question: Coach/safety launches by their nature require a few people to launch and retrieve from the water, usually at very close proximity, again, any guidelines.  

Answer: Unfortunately, if social distancing cannot be accommodated, we cannot recommend that the function is performed. The only exception to social distancing not being maintained is if the people involved are from the same family unit.


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