‛Our future is in doubt,’ says powerboat official David Selley
David Selley has raised grave concerns about the future of powerboat racing in Bermuda amid continued uncertainty surrounding the island’s sporting calendar.
After an interruption to activity since early December because of a surge in Covid-19 cases, Ernest Peets, the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport, revealed a four-stage plan outlining how action on island can return, albeit with strict guidelines being observed.
The guidance, which for most sports was in its penultimate phase of the “Return to Play” plan as recently as two weeks ago, looked to have given many a very real hope of an imminent resumption.
However, in the wake of a recent spike in positive cases, a number of tougher Covid-19 restrictions had been implemented by the Government, resulting in the guidance reverting to Stage 1 with immediate effective.
The second regressive change to the guidance inside a week came as a significant setback to the island’s sporting calendar, including the Bermuda Power Boat Association whose nine-race season was set to commence on April 18.
The move has led Selley, the association’s deputy commodore to raise questions of the guidance, particularly a perceived lack of distinction between separate sports, with each having to follow the same guidelines whether they involve contact or not.
“We fully understand there’s a pandemic going on but we’re facing huge problems by not being able to race,” he said.
“We were on the verge of starting our season and launching our junior programme but now everything has stopped again.
“With the juniors, there is a real danger that they lose interest; you lose that generation for good and then what? That’s the future of our sport at risk.
“It just feels like all sport is being considered the same, which doesn’t make sense because there is surely a difference between contact and non-contact sport.
“We’ve definitely gone backwards in recent months. There are bigger issues, which we of course understand, but it’s extremely frustrating for sporting organisations at the moment, particularly when their futures are at stake.”
While the majority of local sport remains halted, major international sporting events, such as the second season of SailGP, continue preparations on island ahead of a scheduled start on April 24 — albeit under strict Covid regulations.
Selley acknowledges the greater professional nature of the event, but he remains frustrated by a perceived lack of communication from the Government, with a desire to be afforded the opportunity to adhere to similar regulations.
“There is a real lack of discussion with the Government from our point of view,” he added. “We are seeing major events such as SailGP go ahead on island and yet we are all being treated differently.
“I know they’re a professional sport with Covid regulations in place but why can’t we have a discussion about guidelines that could be put in place for us to go ahead?
“We feel it could be done and all we really want is a discussion about our sport, but there hasn’t been any communication at all.
“We know it isn’t ideal but we are willing to do whatever it takes to have even a small chance of racing; time is ticking for us as an organisation to be able to stage our season.”
It is a sentiment echoed by Andrew Cottingham, the association’s rear commodore, who also reinforced the need for an adjustment of the guidelines to better distinguish between contact and non-contact sport.
“From our point of view, it seems unfair that SailGP are being afforded the opportunity to follow certain guidelines but we are not being given the same opportunity to do something similar,” he said. “We’ve applied for an exemption as we were told to do, but as yet we have not had any discussions with Government.
“It is also incredibly frustrating that we are being tied in with sports such as football, rugby and basketball. Those sports cannot avoid contact, but we certainly can.
“The guidelines appear just to be a blanket of all sport and what we want to do is start the conversation and hope Government can use some common sense.”