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Sean Linsdall

TentMeals fuel Oxford University Yacht Club to success in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race

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On 12th August 2018, five current and former Oxford University Yacht Club sailors started the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race. The marathon race, in which yachts circumnavigate the entire UK without stopping, is one of the toughest challenges in ocean racing. But the OUYC team had a secret weapon: a day’s supply of delicious TentMeals. In thirteen days, they covered 1988 nm, encountering gale force winds on Ireland’s rugged west coast, mountainous seas near the Hebrides, mythical islands in heavy fog and flat calms among North Sea oil rigs. OUYC is proud to be the first university team to have completed the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race – and it wouldn’t have been the same without our TentMeals.

The team – Simon Harwood (skipper), Max Jamilly, Mélisande Besse, Annika Möslein, Will Gibbs and Sean Linsdall – arrived in Gosport on Friday 10th August to prepare for the race. Among over 600kg of food and water were our TentMeals. On day six, having endured historic storms, we rounded Muckle Flugga, the most northerly point in the UK. We couldn’t wait any longer to try the TentMeals and decided it was time for a gourmet day. Our Subtly Cinnamon breakfasts were quick to cook, filling and tasty. Crew members with a sweet tooth were especially happy for a break from biscuits and porridge! Later, for dinner, we shared Almond Jalfrezi and Italian-inspired main meals. The curry was a particular favourite. We were all disappointed to return to our routine ship’s menu the following day. TentMeals were satisfying, lightweight, compact, easy to make and quick to eat – ideal for a fast-paced, high-performance sport like ocean racing. We can’t wait to use them on our next record-breaking expedition!

OUYC Conquer the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race

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After 13 days and nearly 2000 miles Talisman returned to Cowes

On 12th August 2018, five current and former Oxford University Yacht Club sailors started the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race. The marathon 1800 nm race, in which yachts circumnavigate the entire UK without stopping, is one of the toughest challenges in ocean racing. In thirteen days we covered 1988 nm, encountered gale force winds on Ireland’s rugged west coast, mountainous seas near the Hebrides, mythical islands in heavy fog and flat calms among North Sea oil rigs. OUYC is proud to be the first university team to have completed the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race.

The team – Simon Harwood (skipper), Max Jamilly, Mélisande Besse, Annika Möslein, Will Gibbs and Sean Linsdall – arrived in Gosport on Friday 10th August to prepare for the race. We had already completed several qualifying races this season and Simon had been working tirelessly to bring the boat up to scratch. Max and Sean jumped off the dock at Haslar Marina to give Talisman a thorough clean below the waterline. Annika joined us from Germany and, once the whole team was reunited, we headed to Gunwharf Quays for a drink and some serious race preparation at Tiger Tiger.

Reluctantly we woke early the next morning and hurried to stow over 600 kg of food and water before crossing the Solent to Cowes. Soon disaster struck: the team satellite phone, our connection to the outside world, stopped working. A big shout out to Max and ‘sat phone’ Gary for spending hours getting it sorted! With Talisman safely berthed at Cowes Yacht Haven, the team headed to the RORC Clubhouse for a briefing and BBQ.

Sunday 12th August was the big day: time to set off on our adventure. Following a last breakfast at Tiffin’s, we spent a nervous few hours on the dock while rumours trickled in forecasting 50+ kt winds and 20m seas in the North Atlantic. We enlisted a questionable French photographer for one last team photo and said goodbye to the dock for two weeks.

Annika Möslein, Mélisande Besse, Sean Linsdall, Max Jamilly, Will Gibbs and Simon HArwood (L-R)

The race started at 1200 from the Royal Yacht Squadron line, the fleet of 28 yachts all heading east towards No Man’s Land Fort, the first mark of the course. After rounding Bembridge Ledge, we did the first of many sail changes as the winds began to gather. The turbulent overfalls off St Catherine’s Point claimed our first seasickness casualty – but luckily Sean was fine after a few hours. As the wind shifted to the west we faced a long, uncomfortable beat to Portland Bill. Méli and Max fell ill too: unfortunately, this lasted a few days, complete with prehistoric vomiting noises and a traumatising experience for an unlucky dolphin.

Passing Bull Rock

As we approached Land’s End, the wind dropped to a pleasant 15 kt with flat seas, a welcome relief from the uncomfortable conditions of the last few days. We rounded Bishop’s Rock off the Scilly Isles at midday on 14th August and began our long upwind journey north-west through the Celtic Sea. Overnight the winds built to a steady 28 kt with regular gusts of 35 kt. After a few night time sail changes we woke up flying a double-reefed mainsail and storm jib. Just over twenty-four hours after leaving the Scilly Isles we passed the legendary Fastnet Rock and the jagged western outcrops of Ireland (Bull Rock and Great Skelling). Shrouded in clouds, they only briefly emerged from the fog. But our sights were firmly fixed north: towards the Hebrides and the gathering storms.

Storm Jib and Trysail up in a North Atlantic storm

Clearing the last outcrops of the Irish coast, we turned north for the 360 nm journey to St Kilda – the last waypoint before Muckle Flugga, a lonely rock in the Shetlands that marks the most northerly point of our course. Each day we received a satellite weather forecast courtesy of Meteorologist Paul (Will’s dad, who kindly read us the shipping forecast). This time the news was extreme: we were on track to cross the tail-end of a tropical storm in the next twenty-four hours. Gale force westerlies and high seas were a certainty. We held a crew briefing: being 100+ miles away from the nearest safe harbour, our options were limited so we decided to ride out the storm but be very conservative with our sail choices to minimise the risk.

Approaching St Kilda on the evening of 17th August, the wind was 35 kt and building. We dropped the mainsail, hoisted the trysail and storm jib and braced ourselves for a very rough night. As the waves rose around us, we had a tray of Jane’s legendary brownies to celebrate Annika’s 22nd birthday. What better way to party than during a storm in the North Atlantic!

Annika celebrating her 22nd Birthday at sea!

Sunrise on 18th August was hidden behind ominous clouds and the wind continued to worsen, as did the fearsome sea state. We measured a maximum gust of 45 kt before the wind instruments died, but bigger gusts continued to blow. Combined with monster waves which towered above Talisman, conditions were perfect for some amazing downwind sailing. All six crew members took the helm to surf at boat speeds over 18 kt. Simon reached 21 kt, a staggering speed with storm sails alone.

After the winds had died down to a moderate 25 kt, it was time to hoist the sails again and get back into the racing mindset. Talisman had other ideas, however: upon hoisting the mainsail we noticed that the top batten pocket had ripped. Méli led a great team effort involving sail patches and Gorilla tape to repair the sail as the wind continued to ease. Soon the conditions were glorious, and we decided it was finally time to make the most of them. Ready for a three-sail reach, we hoisted the lightweight spinnaker – but it spectacularly exploded after less than 5 minutes in the air! Replacing it with the smaller spinnaker, we began to make good progress towards Muckle Flugga.

Rounding Muckle Flugga

The last eighteen hours to Muckle Flugga truly was the calm after the storm, a brief stretch of downwind sailing in 15 kt winds. Even with our larger spinnaker destroyed, we made excellent headway through the chilly waters. As dusk gave way to darkness at 2200 on 19th August, we were delighted when Muckle Flugga finally came into sight and toasted with a glass (or two) of Champagne. It was time, at last, to head south into warmer waters.

Fixing the main in the North Sea

After rounding Muckle Flugga, the storms of the Northern Atlantic became a distant memory and the first 200 nm of our southwards journey were painfully slow due to weak and fickle winds. Morale was high thanks to Max’s constant stream of poor jokes and useless facts (I think we preferred him unconscious and seasick), not to mention regular sightings of dolphins, whales and seabirds and longer, warmer days. The light winds were short-lived and east of Aberdeen the winds picked up again to 35 kt again. We were reefing the mainsail at dusk when a particularly vicious gust tore a metre-long gash in the leech. We rapidly dropped the main and Simon ingeniously fixed the sail using deck sealant, sail patches and Gorilla tape. It was at moments such as this when our strength and cohesion as a team became invaluable. Special mention goes to Annika, who was almost launched skywards when a gust caught the sail as it lay on the deck. Soon the main was patched and re-hoisted just as darkness settled.

An uncomfortable last night at sea

After three days’ journeying south in very light wind, dodging oil rigs and wind farms in the North Sea the breeze steadily built as we approached the Thames Estuary. For the next 12 hours, our boat speed averaged 10 kt and we were soon at the Strait of Dover. We were ready to turn the corner and begin the final short stretch along the south coast to Cowes. But the conditions did not last: the wind veered to the west and dropped below 15 kt off Dover, before building again above 30 kt off Dungeness. Whilst putting in what we hoped would be the last reef of the race, disaster struck. A two-meter stretch of the mainsail leech ripped, making it unusable and resulting in a long night of beating towards Cowes under headsail alone, in storm force winds in torrential rain.

The end was almost in sight and it was agonising to be making such slow progress. Sailing between the traffic separation scheme and the Suffolk coast for six hours against an unfavourable tide, little progress was made, and team morale was low. But eventually the tide turned, and we began to make progress. After searching Talisman from top to bottom, every available sticky patch was used to fix the mainsail leech. We hoisted our patchwork sail for the last time and turned our sights (and stomachs!) towards the finish line.

Back in Cowes after a long and eventful two weeks at sea

At 1200 on 25th August, we passed No Man’s Land Fort to port, finally entering the Solent exactly 13 days after we started. Just over an hour later at 13:34 on 25th August, we finished in an elapsed time of 13 days 1 hour 34 minutes and 17 seconds. We finished 11th (IRC adjusted) out of 28 boats who started. The team was warmly welcomed on Trinity Landing by friends, family and the RORC race committee with several bottles of much-needed Champagne. Thrilled but exhausted, we rushed to the RORC Clubhouse for our first showers in two weeks.

OUYC would like to thank RORC and Sevenstar for organising such an incredible race. Most importantly, we would like to thank our skipper, Simon Harwood, for leading us round and, as always, for putting his trust in us whilst sailing Talisman!

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 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.

Oxford Blue win Varsity and BUSA double.

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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)