OUYC’s annual varsity match against CUYC took place over 24/25th March 2018 as part of the Sunsail Racing Series Round 2 in the central Solent. Day one saw perfect conditions of 15 knots. Oxford perfectly executed the start in race 1, despite Cambridge protesting us for having our spinnaker pole out as we crossed the start line (which the RC confirmed we didn’t!). We rounded the windward mark in first place executing a perfect spinnaker hoist and remained in first place for the rest of the race ending up with a well-deserved bullet. Race 2 again was a good start however not quite as close to the pin as we hoped for resulting in a fourth place at the windward mark, however, this was converted to a third place as we crossed the finish line several marks later. After one more race in which Oxford finished 7th Oxford and Cambridge both headed to Cowes for the annual varsity dinner at the ‘Richard Branson Curry House’.

Light winds were in store for day two of the Varsity match

Day 2 saw lighter winds, however, the Sunsail race committee still managed to run two excellent races despite the strong tides and rapidly decreasing winds. Race 4 resulted in an 8th (happy discard!). The final race of the 2018 varsity saw Oxford round the last windward mark in a strong third position, however with less than 100 m to go until the finish line the wind completely died and a strong easterly tide pushed Oxford over the finish line in fourth position. Giving them the varsity win having beaten Cambridge in every race over the weekend and coming fourth overall out of 19 teams.

Oxford: 1st, 3rd, 7th, (8th), 4th

Cambridge: 5th, 7th, 11th, 10th (14th)

Difficult conditions for Oxford Blue on day one

Immediately after Varsity was the annual BUSA Yachting Championships. Day one saw the whole BUSA fleet heading out of Portsmouth and through the submarine barriers for a couple of practice starts followed by two windward/leeward races in little breeze. Race two was raced in less than 7 knots! These did not suit us as we had trained in heavy weather all winter, resulting in a disappointing 21st and 16th place. The third race of day one was the short inshore race. The race started in a steady 10 knots from the south, we finally got back into the motions and were 8th to the windward mark. However, as we approached mark two (the main channel mark for all shipping leaving the Solent) the wind completely died and a strong easterly tide pushed us back out of the Solent. The wind finally filled in and the race was shortened to finish at Gilkicker point, with a disappointing 18th place.

Squally stormy conditions were more suited to Oxford Blue on day two

Day two saw stronger more stable winds, race three of the championship was another windward/leeward which we managed a much improved 5th place finish. The second race of the day was the long coastal race, which was a 21-mile tour of the central and eastern Solent, in very squally wet conditions. At the halfway mark Oxford was in a comfortable top ten position, however halfway way into a 5 mile beat towards Cowes our kicker strop broke causing us to drop a few positions. A brilliantly nailed lay-line into Gurnard and some excellent spinnaker flying back towards Portsmouth ended up with Oxford finishing 10th in the double points race.

Oxford Blue leading the BUSA fleet on a reaching leg of the long coastal race

With places to gain to reach the Championship fleet, we again headed out through the submarine nets into Langston Bay for three windward/leeward races on day three in shifty 10-12 knot conditions. Race 7 saw Oxford execute a textbook start reaching the windward mark in third place. Excellent spinnaker work and a beautiful bottom mark rounding ended up with Oxford rounding the last windward mark in second place. However, the only spinnaker wrap of the entire year occurred as we gybed onto the layline for the finish. Despite a rapid recovery we lost 2nd place and finished with a 13th, 9th and 14th on day 3. Sadly this was not quite enough for us to reach the Championship fleet, however, we went into the Trophy fleet on the last day in a strong position.

Challenging conditions on the last day in the Trophy Fleet

The final day saw Oxford competing in the trophy fleet with windy and difficult conditions (gust of nearly 30 knots!). Race one was a coastal race which saw Oxford reach the windward mark in 10 positions, a successful spinnaker hoist and some excellent sailing along a very windy reach, saw Oxford sail through the fleet into third at the second mark. The world faster spinnaker packer (León López Brennan) packed the hefty Sunsail Spinnakers in record time enabling Oxford to re-hoist and finish the race in a comfortable third place. The final race of the competition was another coastal race. After one general recall, the race eventually got underway, and an excellent first beat and a perfect layline call saw Oxford reach the first windward mark in first place. We successfully hoisted and flew our spinnaker in 25-30 knots of wind, whilst our competitors struggled all the way down the run. A gybe in difficult conditions was successful executed (despite a minor broach) maintaining our lead. The last leg was a four-mile fetch back to Portsmouth in gusty and difficult conditions. Despite this, we held onto our lead and finished the week off with a well-deserved bullet! This was enough for Oxford blue to win the Trophy Fleet.

Oxford Blue: Louis Manners (Trim 1), Annika Möslein (Pit, BUSA only), León López Brennan (Mast), Sean Linsdall (Main, Captain), Josh Bell (Tactics), Lulu Wallis (Bow), Becca Anthony (Helm) and Méli Besse (Trim 2)