Last-minute event cancellations during ‘circuit breaker’ COVID restrictions have shown the strong bonds of community spirit and support within and between Victorian lifesaving clubs.
Since 2004, Port Campbell SLSC has hosted the third leg of the Shipwreck Coast swim series, with its 12 Apostles Plunge event featuring 1.2km and 400m ocean swim circuits. This year, it was postponed for the first time after a stage four lockdown was announced the night before the event.
“It wasn’t too much grief to push it back for a week because of all the planning that had gone into the event. Having succession back-up plans if key people couldn’t make it helped,” said Club President Scott McKenzie. “It’s no good relying on one or two people with all the event knowledge, everything needs to be written down and then people are allocated jobs and know their role.”
Having a good registration system online also aided a smooth postponement and the club was able to alert all entrants via email. A couple couldn’t make the new date, but some left the entry fee as a donation to the club.
“The rescheduled event went well and the weather and ocean conditions were even better the following weekend, so it worked out fine,” Mr McKenzie said.
It was worth the wait as the club’s biggest fundraiser of the year and he encourages other clubs to put on ocean swims, but credits having sister clubs to lean on for making it easier, with Port Fairy and Warrnambool SLSC’s bringing Inflatable Rescue Boats and providing water safety.
“That was especially helpful with the extra COVID ratio requirements,” said Mr McKenzie. “Combining with the other clubs on the committees and pitching in on the day made it much easier.”
For Lorne SLSC’s president Paul McMaster, the short notice of the circuit breaker lockdown meant the cancellation of the club’s Surf Coast / Bellarine Friendly carnival.
“It was disappointing for the Under 9s, 10s and 11s with such a disruptive season and fewer competitions,” said Paul. “We have a fairly big beach, so could spread out about a kilometre to fit more people in with the outdoor gathering limits, but also kept a cap on entries in line with restrictions.”
The club hadn’t planned too much in the way of perishables, such as food, because the local cafes are across the road and they wanted to give the traders an opportunity to make some money after having a difficult year.
“It was hard on volunteers who had spent hours piecing together the event and working with the COVID-Safe coordinator to get everything right,” Mr McMaster said.
“We’ve asked a lot of our volunteers during COVID restrictions and it was the first time regionally that we had Stage Four restrictions – I’ve never seen Lorne so quiet.”
Despite the unexpected set back, Mr McMaster was quick to point out the lifesaving community’s strong culture of support for its members during difficult times, especially those having to deal with work impacts as well as increased volunteer time spent in the admin of the new COVID rules.
“Each club is in the same position. Hang in there, we’re seeing the vaccine swaying things overseas with a fairly positive impact straight away,” said Paul. “Hopefully we’ll finish this season off and look forward to a season a lot closer to normal next year.”