GDPR creates challenges for sailing clubs – but a more pressing issue exists
Collapse of long-standing ‘social contracts’ are causing problems for boat owners
Sporting organisations are coming to grips with GDPR and the impact is certain to be widely felt. Photograph: Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex
After months of expectation, the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) comes into force across the European Union.
This measure transforms protections of citizens’ personal data in all kinds of electronic forms and places obligations on all kinds of organisations, big and small, and not just commercial entities either.
Sporting organisations are coming to grips with GDPR and the impact is certain to be widely felt.
The most severe headline penalties are primarily aimed at large-scale operations but at the very least, considerable headaches are likely for failure to comply.
Which will make implementation at sailing clubs and events uniquely challenging.
From now on, organisers will have to obtain specific consent from entrants to “process personal data” including for what purposes and how it will be shared with third parties, plus a host of other measures to protect the information.
When it comes to sailing events, actually obtaining the consents becomes tricky; a single entry may be one boat but each entry could easily represent a dozen crewmembers, some less, sometimes more.
In the week that Howth Yacht Club announced that the inaugural Wave Regatta on the June bank holiday week is expecting more than 125 boats while Wicklow Sailing Club announced over 50 boats for the Volvo Round Ireland Race at the end of June, just these two events alone have a considerable task considering they are volunteer-led organisations.
In reality, future events will simply have consent included in entry forms and for this season, boats registering will be asked to sign prior to the event getting under way.
With so many untested requirements under the new regulations, much still needs to be teased out, including how individual crewmembers’ data will be handled.
The GDPR appears to offer a solution with exceptions for existing legal contract or where the data forms part of the activity.
In reality it’s an issue that, while many clubs are coming to grips with it, is a long way off the radar for the typical boat owner.
Unrelated to GDPR but of more pressing concern to boat owners is the apparent collapse of the long-standing “social contract” that has lasted for many decades.
This generally unspoken arrangement functioned quietly in the background of the sport yet underpinned one of the pillars of yacht racing that in turn many clubs came to reply upon.
Under this contract, a boat owner with the financial resources to purchase, maintain and operate an expensive racing yacht relied upon the solemn commitment of a cadre of regular crewmembers to turn up at the agreed time and place, train hard and sail well in return for the opportunity to enjoy the fun without financial outlay.
But just as the fast pace of technology has led to the need for GDPR, such progress has also left people awash with new options for their spare time and many owners are starting to struggle to crew their boats.
Until the sport comes to terms with this issue, the problem of personal data and obtaining individual’s consent may not actually matter at all before long.