Varsity and BUCS sailing diary

Tim Worrall 26 April 2013

Varsity: Day 1: There was an air of tension and excitement with the varsity trophy in the offing as the thirteen boats assembled for the start of Varsity. Although it was a full fleet race, only one result mattered for the Cambridge crew.

The first race of the day began with light winds, resulting in Cambridge having a slow start. This race concluded with a 5th place finish whereas Oxford capitalised on this mistake to win the first race of the Varsity weekend. It was clear that the Oxford crew were just as strong as when they had won Varsity the previous year.

With determination going into the second race, Cambridge hit back with a clean race and rounded the final windward mark clear of the fleet. This paid huge dividends as Cambridge crossed the finish line with a large gap until the second place boat crossed the line, resulting in several boats being timed out. Oxford had an average race to finish in 7th.

The final race saw Oxford surge back to achieve another 1st place finish with Cambridge close on their heels in 3rd.

Returning to port with points tied it was clear that everything would be decided on the second day’s racing.

Day 2: With a sense of determination the Cambridge crew returned once again to the water to fight for the Varsity trophy.

A more stable breeze suited the crew who finished 2nd in the weekend’s fourth race compared to Oxford’s 5th.

The match was still not over going into the final race and in despite Oxford finishing strongly in 4th place, this was not to prove enough as Cambridge won the final race of the weekend in style. Overall, a win to take the Varsity trophy back from Oxford. A fine win in a fierce battle between two teams in fleet racing conditions.

BUCS Day 1: Today was the first opportunity to test the mettle of the other crews in the fleet as the day began with a practice race. It was clear that the overall fleet was strong and the standard of sailors high. However, excellent crew work from the Cambridge crew poling out the jib led to large gains on the downwind leg of the course.

This solid work translated into the first race with Cambridge placing a reasonable 8th place. However, we were hungry for stronger results.

With the wind easing a little, the day’s final race included an opportunity to compare spinnaker handling. Cambridge again demonstrated precise crew work to finish 3rd to conclude the day.

Day 2: Day 2 began with a further two upwind/downwind courses. Again, a combination of excellent starts, solid crewing and tactics resulted in a 1st and 5th place finish.

The afternoon’s longer inshore race was non-discardable and so a strong performance would place the team in a strong position going into the third day. Knowledge of the tidal streams and familiarity with the longer races from the Varsity weekend culminated in Cambridge finishing in 4th to end the day.

Day 3: The third day brought with it the long coastal race. The committee boat opted controversially for the first race start to be held under black flag. This led to all crews adopting a cautious start. The winds being lighter led to Cambridge being further from the line than would have been wished for. The tough conditions continued after rounding the mark with a challenging downwind leg. In the afternoon the winds filled in and we were able to place 8th for the finish. Importantly, this was four places in front of Southampton Red, who by this point had become our main rival for first place in the regatta.

Day 4: Cambridge Blue entered the start sequence for the penultimate race just 2 points behind leaders Southampton Red with a strong Portsmouth crew chasing in 3rd place. The light and shifty winds brought challenging conditions for all crews waiting for the forecast breeze to fill in.

The winds arrived on the left side of the course to the dismay of the Cambridge crew who had chosen to go for the tidal advantage of the right side of the course with the other top crews.

A light downwind leg brought an end to this one lap race, with Cambridge finishing in 15th. However, Southampton Red, adopting similar tactics finished in 18th so there was everything to play for in the last race.

With the winds non-existent, the race committee delayed the start of the regatta’s final race. After an hour of waiting around for a second start, including some entertaining radio chatter, it was announced that racing was abandoned for the day due to the light airs.

It was to be a second place finish for Cambridge but there were smiles all round as the crews headed back to Port Solent. Silver medals awarded for Cambridge to finish a successful week on the water.

Tim Worrall