Over the past month the Thames Regional Rowing Council (TRRC) has received extensive communication about the use of launches on the Tideway. The Coronavirus lockdown has led to exceptional conditions for small boats, with no commercial or other traffic and scarcely any coaching launches.
Some are keen to see these conditions continue and several ideas have been put forward, including restrictions on the use of coaching launches at specified times and locations. We have received individual representations on this matter, and we have taken feedback from our member clubs. For every voice that supports such restrictions, there is another that believes they would adversely affect the use of the river.
These two opposing positions are not mutually exclusive and we have focused our efforts on ways to balance these competing demands. Although the majority of clubs affected do not currently support restrictions, there is broad agreement that improving conditions on the river would benefit everyone.
Indeed, there is a lot that clubs can, and should, be doing already to manage and reduce the impact of launches, and so improve the water conditions for their members and for other river users. As clubs slowly get back into operation, now is an ideal time to review their launch procedures, in order to:
Avoid having more than one person in any launch
Ensure single-operator launches are properly trimmed, especially if they are tiller-operated
Reduce the overall number of coached outings as much as possible
Reduce the number of coached outings happening simultaneously
Consider the impact of tide state on launch use
Consider the impact that slowing down and speeding up has on wash generation
Make purchasing decisions based on which launches produce the lowest wash.
The TRRC can assist its member clubs with:
Guidance on purchasing low-wash launches
Guidelines and publicity on the considerate use of launches.
We plan to circulate information in the coming weeks to assist clubs in minimising their impact on the river conditions.
On the matter of restricting the use of coaching launches, there are potential benefits to all river users – not just single scullers – in being able to row without launch wash.
But action on this depends entirely on the agreement of clubs to observe any restrictions: the TRRC has no power to impose or enforce such rules unilaterally.
From the feedback received so far, it is clear that early-morning weekend restrictions on launch use are not supported by member clubs, and there is little support for any Tideway-wide restrictions. But we believe a solution may lie in some form of launch-free periods above Kew Rail bridge.
We will communicate and consult further with member clubs on the Tideway on this basis, setting out the full risks and benefits of specific restrictions. This will allow clubs to make informed decisions about the best way forward.