March Adaptive Rowing Exemption

12 Mar

The government’s lockdown roadmap announced at the beginning of the month featured a special consideration for disabled sport, but with all of the complex guidelines those exemptions have caused a bit of confusion. Since released, I have been doing as much research as I can to get clarifications on the guidance as it applies to adaptive rowing which I am sharing in this post. DISCLAIMER: This piece represents my best efforts at finding and interpreting the guidance and directives, but does not reflect any official or authoritative position on the advisability or legality of these interpretations.

As it happens, today British Rowing published its Version 11 of “Managing COVID-19: Advice for the Rowing Community”. It re-iterates the previous advice which permits Adaptive Rowing at this time:

  • There is an exemption to the restrictions for adaptive rowing. Clubs may open to facilitate the delivery of organised outdoor adaptive rowing as this is permitted to continue.”

The UK government has specified a general exemption for disabled sport to a number of the movement and activity restrictions in recognition of the constraints that disabled individuals have in getting exercise and their dependency on support infrastructure (eg. adaptive equipment) and personnel. The government guidance has put the responsibility on each sport’s governing bodies to determine the protocols for disabled participants in their respective sports.

Here are the key pieces of guidance which I have collected and cross-referenced:

  • BR GUIDANCE 21 JANUARY: “Adaptive rowing:  There is an exemption to the restrictions for adaptive rowing. Clubs may open to facilitate the delivery of organised outdoor adaptive rowing as this is permitted to continueIt is vital as a community we all take responsibility and do our best to follow the Government’s regulations so that we can all continue rowing. The Government has made it clear that it reserves the right to stop particular sports if there are continued breaches and clearly, no-one wants to reach that situation.” (
  • BR ROADMAP 23 FEBRUARY RESPONSE: “Existing exemptions allowing for adaptive rowing continue to apply.” (
  • UK GOVERNMENT LOCKDOWN GUIDANCE: “Exercising – You should minimise time spent outside your home, but you can leave your home to exercise. This should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.” “Local area” is defined by the government as “your village, town or the part of a city where you live“, but it has also published the exemption that “Outdoor exercise should be done locally wherever possible, but you can travel a short distance within your area to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space).”  (
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AGENCY JANUARY GUIDANCE ON RIVER USAGE: “All navigation on our waterways should be limited to essential travel only.  Travel on waterways and overnight stays are only permitted where the boat is your permanent residence or it is necessary for work, education or similar reasons. Those who live aboard their boats should limit their travel to access essential services and facilities. You should stay local where possible.  As in previous lockdowns, some activities using unpowered boats are permitted as part of your daily exercise, limited to once a day and within the government guidance for exercise. Please check government guidance and any specific guidance from national governing bodies, such as British Canoeing or British Rowing.” While this guidance clear allows for rowing, the status of power safety launches is not clear hear. (

The sum total of these advisories is that adaptive rowing is clearly allowed in the month of March; however, it is not entirely clear whether (a) adaptive athletes are allowed to travel outside their local area to partake in adaptive rowing, or (b) whether safety launches are allowed on the water to support adaptive rowing. Further investigation over the past week or so indicates, in my interpretation, supported by others with whom I have conferred in the rowing community, that both travelling outside the local area for adaptive athletes and using safety launches is permitted (in line with COVID protocols, ie. open boat, single driver or two people in a bubble):

  • AUTISM EYE LOCKDOWN CLARIFICATION: I have been unable to find explicit statements from the government which says that the adaptive exercise exemption extends to the “local area” constraint as well. I did locate this information on the Autism Eye website: “‘Travel as short a distance as possible’ – A Cabinet Office spokesperson said those with health conditions that mean they routinely need to leave home can do so. This includes ‘if that involves travel beyond your local area or exercising several times a day’. But the Government advises people to “travel as short a distance as possible’. Children under five, and up to two carers for a person with a disability who needs continuous care, are not counted towards gatherings limits for exercising outside.” (
  • ENVIRONMENT AGENCY 05 MARCH GUIDANCE ON RIVER USAGE: “Private watersports permitted for exercise – 2 people / 1 household. Stay local and minimise time spent away from home.” The assumption is that the adaptive rowing exemption also applies to the “stay local” provision (

I will update this post as additional information becomes available through 29 March at which time the UK is scheduled to move to “Step 2” when new guidance is scheduled to come into effect.

3 Replies to “March Adaptive Rowing Exemption

  1. Pingback: 2021 World Rowing Virtual Indoor Sprints – Adaptive Rowing UK

  2. Following the publication of the details of the new COVID-19 measures announced by the UK Government, British Rowing have clarified the effects on the rowing community. Outdoor sport organised under national governing body guidance continues to be exempt from the ‘rule of six’. Based on this, both crew boat rowing and rowing competition may continue with groups larger than six when following our Return to Rowing guidance. When rowing in a group larger than six, you should not mingle in groups of more than six before and after the activity. For more information please see the Government website – “Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can’t do”

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