SCRA Guidance for a Safe Return to Rowing on the Sea from 24 August 2020

This revised guidance is being issued following the publication of SportScotland’s Phase 3: Return to sport and physical activity guidance on 5th August 2020 and the First Minister’s announcement on 20th August 2020.


Coastal rowing is a non-contact sport, however, there are many aspects of it where individuals may inadvertently come into close contact with each other (launching & recovering boats, assisting crew into the boat, ‘crabbing’ etc). The boats and associated equipment also have lots of shared contact points e.g. oars, gunwales, etc. Therefore, clubs should regard Coastal rowing in fixed seat boats, with more than one household, in the context of an Organised Outdoor Contact Sport. That being the case, with the correct procedures in place, the Scottish Government and SportScotland have provided a confirmed start date of 24th August 2020 for adults to take part in this activity.

Please familiarise yourselves with all the information available and take all necessary steps to maximise safety for your club situation, whilst bearing in mind the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Covid 19, going forward. PLEASE BEAR IN MIND THAT THIS IS NOT A RETURN TO NORMAL ACTIVITY.


Some sporting activities can now be undertaken, providing all activity is consistent with current Scottish Government guidance on health, physical distancing and hygiene – you will also need to make sure that your club, facility and participants are made aware and can adapt to changes in guidance at short notice.  Information on Scottish Governments approach to managing COVID-19 is available at Scottish Government:  Coronavirus in Scotland .  

Although the guidance now permits rowing in St. Ayles Skiffs no club member should be put under any pressure to return to rowing until they are completely comfortable with doing so.

People who are shielding are permitted to undertake activities providing strict physical distancing is adhered to.

People who are symptomatic should self-isolate for 10 days; household members for 14 days as per NHS guidance. No one who is self-isolating or quarantining should attend a sports facility/activity.


Clubs and participants should be aware that the easing of restrictions does not mean that all facilities/venues will open immediately. Clubs will require time to consider all the implications of opening facilities/venues and put plans in place to set up operations that ensure the safety of participants and volunteers. This is a difficult time for everyone so please be patient.

The information outlined below is generic and should be used to inform the development of suitable SCRA club specific guidance which can be shared with participants, local authorities/trusts, third sector and venue operators.

  1. Appoint a Covid Officer to consider & control activities at your Club at this time. This could be an existing member of the Club’s Management Committee but must be someone willing to take on this responsibility. They may not be popular as activity commences, and they need to remind members of the procedures you all agree to.
  2. It will help hugely to get the message across to your members if the procedures are demonstrated in a short video and published for members to view before they attend to row.
  3. Risk assessments should be undertaken before activity is permitted. (Andy Rendle, SCRA secretary, has sample copies of Risk Assessments if you require these). This may pick up things which mean the need to make significant changes to the way you operate.
  4. Clubs should also take into account the views of their members and the local community. It is worth noting that the evolving Covid-19 situation may mean that clubs in different parts of the country commence activities at different times
  5. Carefully consider what activities are appropriate and define procedures required to undertake these activities (such as washing of equipment). Once these are agreed write them up and publish to all members, making it a requirement to read and understand them prior to taking part in any activity.
  6. Club committees should check with their insurance company that correct and full insurance cover is in place and valid before any activity takes place.
  7. Only outdoor sport and physical activity should be undertaken at this time with all indoor exercise and changing areas remaining closed.
  8. No spectators, other than where a responsible person is supervising a child or vulnerable adult.
  9. Limits on the number of participants accessing facilities should be risk assessed to ensure physical distancing can be maintained before and after being in the boat. This should take into consideration that at Phase 3 five households (or extended households) can meet at a time outdoors, and no more than 15 people in total at any time.  Consider where you launch from and whether lower limits on the numbers gathering there need to be imposed.
  10. Activity ashore must fully comply with Scottish Government household and physical distancing guidance with appropriate hygiene and safety measures also in place.


It is simply not possible to row, complying with 2 metres social distancing, as the diagram below illustrates.

Red Cirles with 1m radius

If each person has a circle around them of 1m radius/2m diameter, then to be 2m away from someone, your circle and their circle should not overlap. The latest SG & Sports Scotland guidance relaxes this requirement by the creation of a “field of play bubble”.

A ‘field of play bubble’ can be created during organised sports activity that allows contact whilst the activity is taking place, in effect suspending physical distancing guidelines for the duration of the activity.  Normal physical distancing guidelines will however apply before and after the activity takes place. Participants are also encouraged to wash themselves and their clothes as soon as practically possible after the activity.

Everyone entering this “field of play bubble” should be aware that this is departure from what they have been used to and accept that this is the case. No-one should be pressured in to taking part if they are in any way uncomfortable with this relaxation of the social distancing rules.

A potential risk to be considered is the slipstream effect, involving contact with exhaled air from other crew members. In the context of sliding seat rowing crew are seated one behind the other, resulting in the potential
for this air to pass along the crew. They also tend to row on sheltered flat waters with relatively static air. The nature of our activity in itself mitigates against this: SCRA fixed seat clubs tend to use crew boats with offset seating positions, and row on open expanses of water where the surface conditions and subsequent boat movement, combined with stronger and more erratic wind conditions, will be disruptive to any potential slipstream effect. However, clubs should consider whether any further mitigation is required.  We have recommended below that the cox wears a face covering and would, of course, encourage any other crew members to follow suit if they felt it appropriate. You may also want to consider other mitigations such as hand signals to replace regular verbal instruction from the cox, restricting the length of outings and focusing on pleasure outings at this
time rather than competitive training outings.

In short, from 24th August 2020, we can

  • Launch, row and recover boats with up to five households in them
  • Immediately before and after the activity we need to socially distance
  • Between uses the boat and equipment needs to be washed down

We suggest that the boats and equipment are washed down by each crew before they are used and again after they are used. This further protects the crews where there may have been accidental contact after the boat was put back into storage, but before it is used again.

Coaches and others supporting organised activity should attempt to keep physically distant where possible, but it is recognised that this will not always be possible. In such circumstances the ‘Covid Officer’ should consider appropriate mitigating actions as part of the risk assessment.

Has your club prepared itself?

  • Do you need to change some of the ways that we do things? Yes
  • Taking part in organising events will require a different risk assessment, has it been done?
  • It may be useful for club committees to do a virtual ‘walk-through’ of a typical rowing session to identify and take steps to respond to potential risks.

SCRA Guidance when rowing resumes:

  1. Do not attempt to go rowing if you feel unwell, or have any symptoms consistent with Covid 19, regardless of whether this may result in a row being cancelled.
  2. For ‘Test & Protect’ purposes keep a log of who is out rowing in each crew and when.
  3. Consider safe management of those requiring assistance to get in / out of boats and whether this is possible within current advice and personnel.
  4. Use your own, clean equipment (water bottles, clothing, VHFs etc). If borrowed or club equipment is used (life jackets, seat cushions etc) this must be thoroughly cleaned between crews. (It is the soap and thorough scrubbing and then rinsing that helps to disable and remove any virus, and it does not matter if the water is hot or cold. Washing-up liquid is as good as soap for removing the virus. The soapy water should also help remove any virus from your hands at the same time).Be mindful of ‘contact’ areas on the boat such as gunwales, seats, tillers, including rope tillers, etc and ensure these are wiped for each new crew.
  5. Wash your hands before and after rowing. If you wear gloves, ensure your gloves are clean each time.
  6. Follow Scottish Government advice with regard to face coverings (this may change over time). In particular we would recommend that the cox wears a face covering. The face covering is to protect others, not the wearer.
  7. Any ‘Test and Protect’ contact-tracing app, may necessitate personal mobile phones being carried. (People signed up to this app receive a text alert on their phone, notifying them if they have been in contact with a person subsequently testing positive for Covid 19). However, be mindful that mobile signal may be absent in some areas.
  8. Be more cautious than normal. You want to reduce the chances of others being called out to assist you until all support services are fully up and running.
  9. Wash down the boats and oars with soapy water and/or disinfectant after the outing, paying particular attention to the parts which you know you have touched.
  10. Wash / wipe down your kit when you get home, including your gloves.
  11. Wash your hands after your activity, and before you engage in other activity.
  12. Further consideration will be necessary for those with club houses or undertaking boat building and routine maintainance.

Remember that although what you are doing is now permitted, any negative feedback or outcome will probably affect your club and indeed the whole fixed seat coastal rowing community.  Ensure that your local harbour authority is happy for you to use whatever facility you need to use to get on the water.  Follow the SCRA guidance above in so far as it is applicable to your activity and always comply with Scottish Government advice re hygiene, social distancing and distance travelled to participate.

If you or your Club has any questions relating to this guidance, please email them to the SCRA Secretary. We have a dedicated Sub-group who will respond to your queries if made in this manner. SCRA is the National Governing Body for Fixed Seat Rowing in Scotland.

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