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RORC Race report: Cervantes and Myth of Malham

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OUYC is competing in the RORC Round Britain and Ireland 2018 race this August on Talisman, a Prima 38 skippered by Simon Harwood. In preparation for this 2,500nm challenge (read more here), the crew competed this May in two qualifying races, the Cervantes Trophy Race and the Myth of Malham Race.

Cervantes Trophy Race, 5th-7th May

The Cervantes Race takes competitors 130nm across the Channel from Cowes to Le Havre. A team of eight – Sean Linsdall, Louis Manners, Annika Möslein, Eerik Toom, Max Jamilly, Kirstin, Jane and skipper Simon Harwood – drifted over the line at Cowes in mirror-calm seas on Saturday morning. The fleet of 47 yachts was almost parked up in very light breeze and glorious sunshine. The crew of Talisman worked hard to push Talisman out of the Solent before the tides turned. Past Bembridge Ledge, we headed downwind across the Channel and a fresh northeasterly breeze began to build towards dusk. Simon served a delicious sunset chilli (none of us saw the green flash, although Max swore that it exists) and we settled into our watches for a brisk night’s sailing. The skies were clear and Sean showed off his talent for celestial navigation. Annika, fresh from a calamitous Atlantic voyage with her brother, found the whole experience rather tame. In light airs at dawn, we rounded Cussy Buoy, west of Le Havre, and began reaching northeast to A5, before making a final turn towards Le Havre. We crossed the finish line at 15:31 after an elapsed time of 1 day and 6 hours, in ninth position in IRC2 and in 34th place overall. Winner in our class and winner overall was Pintia, a J/133 from Le Havre.

The weather was tropical as we enjoyed a few much-needed bilge beers in Le Havre. Eerik and Louis struck off to find bootleg cigarettes while the remainder of the crew scoured the town for healthy snacks of charcuterie and cheese. Following an athletic seafood supper on the beach, we were joined by a friendly stowaway called Steve and left harbour at dusk for the return journey home.

 

 

At the finish in Le Havre. L-R:Louis, Max, Annika, Eerik; Front: Sean

 

Talisman leaving the Solent

 

The Cervantes Race crew. L-R: Jane, Eerik, Annika, Sean, Louis, Max, Kirsten, Simon (skipper).


 

Myth of Malham Race, 26th-28th May

After a painfully light start in the Cervantes Race, nature seemed to have dealt us a very different hand for the Myth of Malham Race: 25kt winds were forecast for Saturday and gusts of 35kt on Sunday morning. The crew – Sean Linsdall, Will Gibbs, Louis Manners, Annika and Victor Möslein, Max Jamilly, Jane and skipper Simon Harwood – were prepared for a gruelling race, although perhaps not as disastrous as the previous year. This year’s slightly shortened route eliminated the mark near the Needles and sent racers directly west along the coast from Cowes to Eddystone Lighthouse, matching the first leg of the Fastnet Race. At Eddystone, the route doubles back to complete a 230nm round trip.

Given the forecast, we were surprised to begin in a gentle breeze and bright sunshine on Saturday morning. Will trimmed the spinnaker with a magic touch as we made excellent progress at 15kt towards Eddystone. A few racing pigeons hitched a ride with us until Sean evicted them. Nightfall brought pasta Bolognese and dramatic thunderstorms onshore, soon followed by monsoon rains as we struggled to fly the spinnaker in a dying breeze. Jane always had another box of brownies when our spirits dipped. With Sean stoically at the helm, we rounded Eddystone in the early hours on Sunday morning. On Sunday, we stuck close inshore to make the most of fitful breezes but still had plenty of distance to cover by nightfall. Our second night underway was marked by constant wind shifts. Louis and Victor, working on the bow, oversaw countless sail changes which proved exhausting for the entire crew (except for Max, who claims that Sean’s efforts to wake him up were much too gentle). The fleet made very slow progress towards Swanage Head.

On Monday morning, Talisman clung to Swanage Bay in very light winds against unfavourable tides. Three dolphins dancing around our bow accompanied us towards the finish, which we eventually approached at 09:00. Thanks to a strategic decision to stay high on a biased finish line, we drifted across just in time. Boats a few lengths behind us were forced to put down anchor and wait over an hour before they could finally finish the race. We came in fifth place in IRC 2 and finished in 22nd place overall, in a total time of 1 day and 17 hours. 18 boats had retired, including three from IRC 2. The winner in our class was Abu 43, a Figaro II which finished in 1 day and 17 hours.

Sean working hard

 

Dinner at sunset. L-R: Will, Louis, Annika, Victor


 

Follow our progress towards RBI 2018 here http://ouyc.co.uk/events/rorc-round-britain-and-ireland-race-2018/. We are seeking individual and commercial sponsorship for the event. If you would like more information or are interested in sponsoring the team, please contact us for more information.

Cambridge Blue Takes the Top Gun Trophy

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The Top Gun Invitational Trophy 2018 was earlier than usual, on a blustery weekend at the beginning of February. Eight University teams, from all over the UK and Ireland, descended on Farmoor to compete for the title and magnum bottle of Moet and Chandon.

With gusts of 28 mph and the wind set to build, Saturday started in cut-downs. The competition was tight, providing some fantastic races, but it was Southampton who finished the first day ahead, with 92% race wins.

The Annual Dinner on the Saturday night was a huge success, bringing different teams and members of OUYC past and present together. We would like to thank St Hugh’s College for hosting, Salcombe gin for providing the drinks reception, and to our social secretaries, Leon and Louis, for organising the event.

Bleary-eyed on Sunday morning, races began promptly, and Southampton and Cambridge began to edge ahead. The rolling fronts and building gusts necessitated the change from full mains to storms, and then to the postponement of racing, as even heavy, clunky fireflies began planing down the run. Fortunately our team of volunteers managed to take opportunity between fronts and run a best of three final. Southampton took the first, but it was Cambridge who triumphed and took the Top Gun trophy, in the end.

This event could not run without the hard work and dedication from our volunteers. We would like to extend our greatest thanks to the umpires, to Sam Jenkins our race officer, and all the on the water helpers who helped make the event a success.

Thanks too to Keith Sammons at KSail for his help with scheduling and scoring and also all the teams for travelling the distance to attend the event.

BUSA Qualifiers

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An uncertain forecast marked the beginning of what was to be a tumultuous weekend for the three fresh faced Oxford teams at this year’s BUSA South Central Qualifiers. The teams had been preparing for this weekend with eager anticipating at testing many of their new skills against other universities.

The wind on Saturday was less than forthcoming. With other Qualifiers having to be cancelled we were unsure what to expect. However, the race committee did a fantastic job accounting for the incredibly inconvenient 180-degree wind shift. Oxford Blue enjoyed a successful day with resident wunderkind Jenny Cropley single-handedly taking on Imperial Blue and winning the race for her team. Oxford White and Black were faced with an unfortunate draw but put in some strong performances against some very challenging teams. Oxford White in particular benefitted from the addition of team racing legend Ben Rahemtulla.

Sunday brought with it fantastic weather and an associated very early start. Oxford Blue put in a fantastic performance winning 12 of the 14 races they sailed that day. A particular highlight was beating Southampton Red after Lucy Mellers decided that her tiller extension was superfluous during the pre-start. Oxford Black had an unfortunate day, but showed their metal in beating Oxford White on the finish line of the final beat. Oxford White barely missed out on playoffs after coming 9th and a special mention must go to team captain Ali Bibby for the integrity she showed in what was a particularly difficult race committee hearing at the end of the day.

Oxford Blue however have qualified straight through to BUSA finals! We look forward to pressing on with that momentum at this weekend’s Top Gun. Our relatively young squad found the weekend provided some very valuable lessons with the overall event being very competitive. We are looking forward to our squad building on this in the future!

Our thanks go to the race committee, umpiring team and Wessex Sailing Club for organising a thoroughly enjoyable event.

Pre-BUSA events

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OUYC dinghy squad were busy the 27th/28th January, with all three teams making the most of the last weekend before BUSA qualifiers (watch this space….)

Wessex Winter Warmer 

A Blustery forecast left the team feeling concerned, however, at Spinnaker we were met with ideal breeze for both days albeit a bit shifty (even compared to Farmoor’s standards). With a clashing event in Warwick many of the other Uni teams were up north, instead we faced a barrage of alumni teams whose experience shone through. We certainly came away with some important lessons to take forward. Potentially the most thought provoking was the relationship between not having a hangover and team morale on day two! Oxford Blue is feeling race-ready to take on BUSA after competing in Wessex and refining our tactics in a racing environment.

We would like to thank Wessex Sailing Club for organising a fantastic event, the umpires and the race officer.

Warwick Turtle

The usually easy-going Saturday morning departure from Oxford was given a pinch of excitement when one of the twelve squad members we sent to the Warwick Turtle (Oxford Black and Oxford White) failed to show up at the agreed pick-up point on time.

After a feat of cardio prowess on behalf of Louis Manners, the absentee in question was retrieved and swiftly (but safely) driven to Drycote Water, where both of our teams kicked the day off with strong wins in heavy winds.

Oxford White – a formidable, if novel, ensemble of knowledge, experience, and talent – tacked and jibed their way to the Gold Fleet with ease, only to be sabotaged by untimely capsizes in Finals (in an arguably borderline-windy day).

Special mentions go to Ella Bennett for bravely (and very successfully) crewing for the first time – she has turned out to be as clear-sighted a crew as she is a fast helm; and to Tiarnan Finney (widely known as ‘TX’) for his management of in-race team communication – in the words of one of his teammates: “you follow TX’s calls almost blindly, he’s got it nine out of ten times”.

Oxford Back – an unlikely, if long-standing, assembly of turncoat yachties – saw their Sunday morning hopes dented by two races lost in succession, yet recuperated their morale later on the day and performed some textbook team-racing, only to frustratingly miss first Gold Fleet and then repechage by one point each.

Recognition goes to the herculean efforts of Josh Bell and Louis Manners to compress an unlikely race from positions 2 and 3, after his teammate (whom, in reference to his notoriously good first couple of races, had invited them to “join the party at the top of the fleet”) started off full of water and humbly cruised around the course in a big 6.

Overall a very exciting and fun weekend, our thanks to Warwick for running it.

Michaelmas Term 2017

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The Dinghy side has had an exciting term with trials and lots of training and events! We are really excited to see our squad shaping up with three competitive mixed teams and two strong ladies teams looking forward to BUSA and Ladies Nationals respectively!

The Magnum was a great success with our fixtures secretary, Lauren, doing an amazing job making sure everything ran smoothly. We also attended two events, The Welsh Dragon and the Bristol Brew. We really enjoyed hosting Doshisha University as part of the triannual OUYC-DUYC exchange.

All in all it has been a very successful term on the dinghy side and we are excited for the next calendar year.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas.

Welsh Dragon

The Welsh Dragon saw the first time the Oxford teams ventured beyond our comfort zone of Farmoor to face off against teams from over 20 other universities. It was an especially exciting weekend for the 5 fresher sailors that joined the squad this year. After an early start, we were set for an exciting two days racing!

The first day saw Cardiff bay battered by some very heavy winds, which proved quite tricky for our relatively small and new squad to cope with. Oxford Blue had a mixed bag of results winning 50% of their races. A particular highlight was a successful race against the Southampton Alumni team which saw Oxford turn a losing combination up the beat into a 1,2 into the finish. The newer Oxford White team raced some very competitive races against some of the best teams in the country.

Going in to the second day Oxford had secured itself places in the Silver and Platinum fleet. The second day was unfortunately struck by far lighter conditions. It was only at midday that the wind had picked up enough to get some races going again.  Oxford Blue did well to win its only race of the day. Oxford White put in a strong performance, despite multiple boat breakages, in the trying conditions.

Our thanks go to Cardiff University and all the volunteers for helping to make the event such a success.

Bristol Brew

Much like the Welsh Dragon, the Bristol Brew demanded an early start for our team of 6. The event was the first time that the Oxford Black helms were able to sail together in a competitive environment and if the event is anything to go by, they’re in for a very successful year!

We arrived at Chew valley lake to find a notable absence of any wind. The ensuing wait was well received with our squad taking them time to catch up on some sleep and prime themselves for the afternoon’s races. The afternoon allowed only two races, one of which we won, losing the last to the team that would eventually go on to the final.

After an enjoyable social the night before, Oxford Black hit the water in full force to win 5 of their 6 races. A particular highlight included Leon Lopez Brennan compressing a losing 1,4,6 into the best possible combination of 1,2,3. The expressions of amazement on the faces of the opposing team were very much matched by the members of our own team. Oxford Black finished the day in 3rd according to the number of race wins, but unfortunately didn’t quite clinch it into the semi-finals. We finished 5th overall owing to our points, but very happy with the performance of this newly formed team.

We would like thank Bristol and its volunteers for a well-run event.

The Oxford Magnum 2017

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Once again, Oxford University Yacht Club hosted the Magnum Regatta over the weekend 11th/12th November. The reputation of the event going before it we were oversubscribed with entries with 21 high-quality teams attending. This included our fleet racing friends from Doshisha University Yacht Club who adapted to the new boats and different style of racing remarkably quickly! It was also really nice to see lots of Oxford alumni competing.

The event was won however by a Bough Beech team who proved their dominance convincingly, not losing a single race over the weekend! They were closely followed by a Thames Exiles team and the Oxford and Cambridge Sailing Society in 2nd and 3rd respectively. Cambridge Blue were top university, finishing 4th overall.

 

The wind on saturday was very light which delayed racing at times. However the start boat persevered and we managed to get a reasonable number of races in before the close of play.

As always, the social was great fun, fitting 128 people in one restaurant is a challenge but nothing we couldn’t handle! On Sunday a cold northerly wind led to some exciting racing, with a decision being taken to change to cut downs. The conditions meant we were able to get lots of races in which more than made up for the lighter winds the day before, and spirits were high when racing finished.

 

Light winds on saturday

Congratulations to Bough Beech for their fantastic performance!

We would like to thank Keith and Jo for their exceptional effort, as well as the umpires, Lauren Davis, and all the volunteers who helped run the event so smoothly.

Thoughts are already turning to our next event, the Top Gun!

Racing underway on Sunday and Doshisha University

 

Photo credits: Nigel Vick

Oxford take on top universities in Qingdao, China

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This August saw Oxford’s yachting squad flying out to Qingdao, the venue for the Olympic sailing competitions during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Delegates from the city had visited the UK back in the spring to invite the country’s top universities to compete in their inaugural International Top University Regatta and the lineup of competitors was impressive with crews from Melbourne University, United Universities of Amsterdam, Lomonosov Moscow State University, University of California, Qingdao University of Science and Technology, Cambridge University, Imperial College London, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The crew arrived in China early in order to have the opportunity to explore the local area and adjust to the time zone and climate. The Chinese summer was pretty relentless with temperatures rarely falling below thirty celsius and the air pollution and humidity made spending time outside hard to manage.

The Oxford sailors were undeterred however and made the most of the opportunity to explore the city. Particular highlights were the discovery and tour of the world-famous Tsingtao beer factory as well as participating in the annual Qingdao Beer Festival.

Four days after our arrival the teams were briefed by the race committee and drew for boats before heading for a short practice session in the race area. Unfortunately a lot of problems with the boats were identified by all of the teams before and during this session and many hours were spent attempting to source tools, spare parts, and a lot of silicone lubricant!

Maintenance continued the next morning before racing, but eventually all teams made it onto the water in time for the first start. The racing was incredibly competitive with several of the competitors running their own Olympic campaigns. Still, Oxford put in a strong performance and finished the first race in a very respectable 3rd in a fleet of 9.

Unfortunately Oxford soon ran into some unavoidable problems including a snapped shroud, a torn jib, and one crew member catching heatstroke which plagued their performance in the rest of the regatta. After some lengthy hearings with the jury it was decided that Oxford would be awarded redress because these problems were entirely the fault of the organising authority who provided the boats. The perseverance of the entire crew allowed them to finish 5th overall despite having retired from 3 races of the 7-race series.

Despite the poor quality of the boat the team drew for racing, the entire team still had a very enjoyable visit. From the moment we arrived at the airport until the day we departed we felt incredibly welcome in Qingdao and our hosts really went out of their way to ensure we enjoyed ourselves. We really hope that as the quality of the regatta improves in future years this is a trip that OUYC sailors will be able to enjoy for many years to come.

News from the 100th Varsity Match

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The Mixed Match

The 2017 Varsity saw the 100th meeting of Oxford and Cambridge at Itchenor. The racing was done in Swallows, which, though unknown to the Oxford team, provided an exciting challenge. The conditions were perfect both days with steady wind, sunshine and Chichester harbour making for a beautiful backdrop.

On Thursday, the mixed team started the match with the odds stacked against them on. The Cambridge teams had enjoyed some particularly strong recent success to finish 2nd, 3rd and 4th at BUSA. Nevertheless the mixed team gave it their all chasing the Cambridge teams on both days. Cambridge managed to use their greater keelboat experience and strong tactical knowledge to dominate the races and by Friday they had managed to come out ahead.

Our thanks go out to the umpires, who so expertly managed the racing, Itchenor sailing club for their hosting and our counterparts at Cambridge for organising another successful Varsity match.

The Ladies’ Match

With Oxford having beaten Cambridge at Ladies’ BUSA earlier in the year, but only by one place, the racing was bound to be competitive and contested. Excitingly, for the first time ever, the Ladies’ races were 3-boat Team Racing, rather than the usual 2-boat. The move was made due to the strength and size of the Ladies’ squads.

The Cambridge ladies were off to a strong start on Thursday morning. The Oxford girls showed off their team racing skills on the start line but, comfortable and experienced in keelboats, the Cambridge team pulled ahead to take the win. Much of the rest of Thursday was spent looking for wind but, when a racing area was finally settled on, the Oxford girls showed they were ready to fight back. In a nail-biting finish, they took a 1,3,5 winning combination. By Friday morning the conditions were ideal, with the sun shining and a strong breeze. The Ladies teams fought it out in three close races. Some exiting team racing could be seen from the mothership and the boys cheered on their support. Ultimately, the Cambridge girls pulled ahead to win the Varsity Match 2017 4-1, but the level of sailing displayed bodes well for the Oxford Ladies.

It’s Worcester’s year at Cuppers 2017

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Plagued by light winds, the group stages could not be completed before the cut to semi-finals. However, the results were clear and the semi-finals saw:

Brasenose v Magdalen
Worcester v St Edmund Hall

Ineligible for the main trophy, strong displays from Christchurch/Peter’s and Merton/Keble saw these two team lined up in a secondary final.

After some loud, aggressive, and exciting racing, Merton/Keble emerged winners of the mixed-college competition.

In the main event, Brasenose edged ahead of Magdalen on the finish line. Worcester all dispatched St Edmund Hall gaining themselves the last spot in the finals.

Very close racing ensued between the finalists, but Worcester’s 2,3 around the leeward mark proved too difficult for Brasenose to break down and Worcester made easy work of defending the final beat to cruise to a well-earned Cuppers victory.

We look forward to seeing how they get on at Cambridge’ Sailing Cuppers in 9th week!

Oxford’s BUSA Campaign

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Our Dinghy Captain reports on OUYC’s BUSA campaign this year:

This year has been a year focussed on developing a squad which I have every faith will do exceptionally well in the years to come. We kept only one helm and one crew from last year’s first team, and we lost two helms from last year’s second team. Of Oxford Black, four of the team had never sailed for Oxford before, three of the team had not been seriously involved in team racing before, and four of the team have at least two more years sailing for Oxford. All but one of the second team will be sailing next year, and two of the helms have two more years at Oxford; all but two of the third team, Oxford Purple, will be sailing next year, including some sailors who put in exceptional individual performances at the qualifier, and have been improving at an alarming rate. Oxford Black finished ninth at the BUSA team racing finals at the ever-delightful West Kirby Sailing Club. Our second team, Oxford White, narrowly missed out on qualifying to attend play-offs; every team from our qualifier which attended play-offs went on to qualify for the finals. It must be acknowledged that – while our results this year were a vast improvement over last year’s results – they were not as strong as they have been in many years past. However, we should still count this year’s results as a great success. In light of the youth of the squad, this year’s result at the BUSA finals is in a few ways very positive. First, it is unheard of for a team with so little team racing experience to be so close to the quarter finals of BUSA. Secondly, it is extremely promising for next year’s BUSA performance to have done so well this year given how many of the squad have many more years of sailing for Oxford. Finally, it a testament to this year’s rate of improvement that, after just managing to make the top four at our qualifier behind two Southampton teams and the London first team, Oxford Black beat that London team and one of those Southampton teams by over 5 places at finals. For the reasons rehearsed above, Oxford Black went into this year’s finals with no expectations as to our results, and a focus on debriefing well, working together well, and learning as much as we could from each race. This strategy worked well for us, inviting comments from other teams on the quality of our debriefs, and resulting in genuine improvements. The inexperience of our team resulted in us losing some eminently winnable races against on the basis of unforced errors; however, losing races on the basis of such errors will quickly be ironed out by more event experience: the future is bright. I am very proud of the freshers in the squad, and how well they have taken on board my crash course in team racing. If I may end on a wistful note, it was pointed out to me by Swansea – who finished in 8th – that we won both of our races against them.

 

      Oxford Black at the BUSA ball                                                             Oxford Dinghy Squad 2016/17                                                                 
         
(from right to left) Lazar Liebenberg, Lucy Mellers,

Remi Pfister,Jenny Cropley, Joe Gough (captain),  Lauren Davis