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.

Women’s Team Racing Nationals 2018

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On Friday 23rd February two Oxford Women’s teams set off to Glasgow for an exciting weekend competing at the RYA women’s national championships. Spirits were high and the nine hour minibus journey passed quickly.

The event soon got under way on Saturday despite the wait for wind thanks to the quick action of the race committee and the round robin got under way. Oxford Blue had a fantastic day on the water, winning all 10 of the races sailed with 9 of them won in a 1,2. Particular highlights have got to be the two races that we won having gone in to mark 4 with the opposition in a 1, 2. Oxford Crimson also had a great day, securing enough wins to see them placed in the silver league on Sunday.

We then were lucky enough to have a talk about becoming a race official and the general state of participation of women in sailing. We were really impressed by the productivity of this conversation and in general the fact that this seminar was included in the programme. As a club we are considering different ways that we can work to promote women in sailing, something that we consider really important to us. Tackling gender inequality within sport, and in particular within sailing, is something that we all need to be really proactive about and so starting conversations of this kind is an essential first step.

The fun of the day didn’t stop at the racing, with a Ceilidh to look forward to we headed back to Glasgow. Despite our dancing skills clearly not being comparable to our sailing ones, the more experienced Scottish sailors were very patient with us as we attempted to get the hang of the different dances. We really enjoyed the whole evening though we might need to put in some practice before BUSA finals!

Sunday was a cold start, so cold in fact that the lake was frozen when we arrived. The Siberian winds had clearly made it to Lochgelle, with the water temperature recorded at 0.5degrees. However eventually sailing got under way, with the day starting off in Leagues. Oxford Blue’s first race was set up to be a tough one. We were up against BUSA, the only other team who had won all their races on Saturday. The racing was tight and fast paced but Oxford managed to take the win in a 1,3 ,5, setting us up nicely for another competitive day. The league we were in was very close with lots of experienced sailors, meaning that when we broke for finals there was a three-way tie for the fourth place. Exeter won on tie break and so Oxford Blue, who had finished the league first, went in to the semi-finals against them. We continued our no-losses streak to finish 1,2 and 1, 3, 4, so that we just had the final ahead of us. RNCYC had won the other semi-final against BUSA and so the final was shaping up to be a repeat of 2017 where Oxford just missed out on finishing the overall event in first place to RYCYC. There was a certain amount of nerves as we sailed out and we unfortunately lost the first race. However we didn’t want to let this put us off and so we reset ready for the next race. We pulled off a good start and rounded mark 1 in a 1, 2 which we then held for the race, so that both teams were on one race win going in to the last race.

The final race was really close with lots of combination changes going round the course but we managed to win in a 1,3, making us the RYA Women’s Champions 2018 and also BUSA Women’s champions for the second year in a row! We are really proud of this achievement.

Oxford Blue (from left to right):

Jenny Cropley, Rosie Williamson,

Ali Bibby, Rowena Conway (captain),

Lauren Davis, Lucy Mellers

 

 

 

The whole weekend was a great experience, even with our slightly nightmare minibus journey home (7 hours in traffic on the M6 really isn’t an experience I want to repeat!) As a club we are really happy to continue to support women in sailing and in particular were proud that we were able to put out two competitive women’s teams, a great reflection of our ongoing commitment to promoting women within our club.

We would like to thank the universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde, the race officers, the umpires and all the helpers who put on such an enjoyable event for us! We definitely appreciated the unlimited toasties! We are already looking forward to the next Women’s event!

Imperial Icicle 2018

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Over the weekend 17th/18th February three OUYC teams competed in the Imperial Icicle. With Ladies BUSA the weekend 24th/25th February we entered our two Ladies teams and a third mixed team so that the girls could get some event experience before nationals.

Despite the light winds on Saturday morning, racing got under way reasonably quickly as soon as the wind filled in enough to keep the boats moving. Oxford Blue made a great start in the competition, only losing one race on Saturday which saw them placed second overnight. Oxford White and Oxford Black also had a good day, getting used to sailing with each other and indeed for one member of Oxford White getting used to team racing all together.

Some of our squad proved that they don’t just compete on the water, getting in to the spirit of the social with all the usual enthusiasm, though as those at the curry house will testify it was a rather eventful evening! However despite the late night antics our teams came back strong on Sunday morning, with Oxford Blue getting in to Gold League, Oxford Black in Silver and Oxford White in Bronze. Light winds and shifts proved testing, though a good opportunity for our fleet racer helms in Oxford White to demonstrate their incredible boat speed. In Gold, after some nail bitingly close races and results, Oxford Blue finished 3rd at the event. All looks promising for Ladies BUSA!

We would like to thank Imperial for organising a fantastic event, and providing exceptional hospitality.

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.