Mike Wiseman and the Waltham Chase Team ran fourteen practice trials and four competitive trials from the beginning of June through to the end of October last year.
Having hosted a number of events during 2020, how did the Clubs find staging of events during the Covid restrictions?
It was initially a challenge! We were concerned that our members would struggle with the ACU online process and developed a hybrid entry system, book by email and fill out entry forms which were put in a post box on the day with entry fee. To be honest it was a bit of a mess! It worked, but we were still dealing with paperwork and cash.
We then took the decision to move everything to the ACU system – best thing we have done for a long time. If there is no other option to book a ride it is amazing how many members adapted to the process. Initially we had a couple that needed a little help but now it is 100% online entry only.
It is unlikely we will ever go back to the old way of doing things but the only negative is we do miss the social interaction around the “desk”.
Can you give us a brief overview of some of the measures that you had to put in place to allow the events to take place successfully?
Online booking only – no options of anybody turning up on the day. For the first time in years, we had 100% visibility of all who were on site and knew they had Trials Registration! It also removed the need for a Signing On desk and helped avoid a gathering place.
Club members all selected their own start number which were put on machines and also on the dashboard of their vehicle when entering the trial, these numbers have been fixed for 2020 and 2021. No admin was needed writing out numbers and there was no risk when distributing them. An enterprising club member is also selling the printed, laminated numbers. The numbers were used by a ‘gatekeeper’ who, dressed in PPE, checked vehicles as they entered the trial site where they were ticked off the entry list. Strictly, no entries were accepted on the day and no spectators were allowed to accompany riders. The gatekeeper has a list of riders and officials for the event to check.
The number of entries for each event was partly restricted by the amount of car parking available and this influenced which venues were used. The bigger the car parking space the bigger the entry. Vehicles have to be at least two metres apart to help riders maintain social distancing.
Waltham Chase have sourced new bigger venues including the Portsmouth Enduro ‘Woodberry Lane’ site, and also the old ‘Ken Hall Trophy’ Motocross site at Langrish which are both large sites which allow for multiple sections and good car parking.
Final Instructions were sent to all with all information riders or observers need. Signage to make all aware of COVID-19 and distancing, but you can overdo it, so we have cut back a little.
Waltham Chase started their ‘Covid’ trials with practice trials with small numbers at highly familiar venues to check out how the arrangements would work, so they could be modified before introducing bigger numbers and competition. They still run both to give the maximum number of riders the opportunity to take part. With the introduction of competitive trials the club has grown to include nearly fifty new members who want to take advantage of the events being organised. Several trials have been ‘open to centre’ as more entries were possible in bigger venues.
On a practical note, one area which had to be considered was riders falling off, adults and youth riders. The club introduced a ‘thumbs up’ if the rider was ok and didn’t need assistance. Riders are always quick to help each other and this needed a change of behaviour. All riders are expected to wear gloves throughout the trial so this would give some protection if a rider did need to be assisted. Some clubs also insist on riders wearing masks in sections. As part of the expectations riders are told to bring their own first aid kits in case of injury. Youth riders are allowed to be accompanied by their parents who support their child, social distancing has to be observed and the temptation to help another parents’ child resisted.
How did you find using the ACU Covid-19 Risk Assessment Template and the support from the ACU and methods required to run these events?
The Waltham Chase team were determined that the Covid regulations issued by the ACU could be interpreted and implemented to enable trials to be run safely, initially to give the two hundred Club Members the opportunity to ride. The twelve pages of ACU risk assessments were taken apart and new organisational procedures put in place. A list of ‘dos and don’ts’ were issued to all club members to make sure everyone was on the same wavelength. The ‘rules’ were shared with several local clubs to help get them started during the pandemic.
After running your first events did you find any additional measures and changes that you needed to put in place prior to the remaining events?
For our first events we used a hybrid system that still required “paper”. Regardless of procedures and signs riders still handed you forms and cask. The additional measures were to go 100% paperless.
Is there any advice or guidance that you would give to any other ACU clubs looking to run events during these Covid-19 times?
Use the ACU system and cover all event information with emailed Final Instructions to riders. A benefit of using the system is having contact emails for all riders. We use a similar email for all Observers. One issue is having to find Observers in advance, but this is the new normal and riders understand that they need to provide Observers or there is no ride. Waltham Chase are not unique in embracing the Covid 19 regulations, but they have done more than most to keep trials alive and safe. There are two indicators of success for Covid 19 regulation trials, one, riders enjoying the sport we love and two, doing everything we can to protect against an outbreak of Covid as a result of a motorcycle event. It is important that clubs do their homework, and each rider takes responsibility for keeping ourselves and others safe.
Finally, as a club what plans do you have for running events during the 2021 season?
We are assuming that there will be no activity until at least March, but have planned 23 events for ten months, including three Southern Centre Championship Rounds and five additional “Open” trials. The remaining dates will either be Club Trials or Practice days (Just like a Trial, but no marking).