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.