Varsity and BUSA 2016
Posted on the 28th March at 11:00 a.m.
Varsity and BUSA was a week of mixed conditions and hard fought racing.
TLDR; Cambridge just lose out in Varsity and finish 9th in Silver fleet at BUSA nationals.
We saw moderate-strong breezes of 15 kts gusting up to 25 for the whole weekend. The format for Varsity 2016 was the same as in previous years, up to 7 fleet races over 2 days with the boat that finishes higher in the fleet taking home the prize, and the good weather meant that there was a large turnout. The first race of the weekend was very close with Cambridge finishing 7th, one place behind Oxford's 6th and this boosted our confidence for the weekend; race 2 was a similar story though, with just a few boat lengths separating Oxford in 5th from us in 7th.
We came in to race 3 boosted by a hearty lunch of bagels and cold pizza and fought back from a poor start to catch Oxford in the final few boat lengths of the race, scoring our first win over them. Race 4 saw a fierce battle over luffing rights between the two boats at the first windward mark. Attempting to capitalise on a strong mark rounding and quick hoist we crept up the leeward side of Oxford before they had their kite filled and pushed up towards the wind, stopping them flying the spinnaker and giving us a good position over them. This led to a protest against us as the Oxford tactician claimed we did not have the right to luff. Oxford were eventually able to fight back over the next upwind leg, putting their upwind speed and tactics to good use. At the end of day 1 Oxford led with 3 race wins to our 1.
Determined to make the most of day 2 and prove we could stage a comeback on the same level as Oracle in the America's Cup we put in our best performance of the weekend in race 5, finished 4th out of the 12 boats and above Oxford in 5th. Oxford then put an end to our comeback with their strongest result of the series in race 6, a well-deserved 2nd, considerably ahead of our 6th place.
Although the results didn't go our way we had a really good weekend's racing in great sailing weather and would like to extend our congratulations and thanks to Oxford, we'll be back next year ready for another tough fight.
BUSA Yachting Nationals 2016
Expectations were high going into the nationals, we'd scored plenty of mid-fleet results over the previous couple of days against teams with a lot more experience than the universities we'd be racing; however, the weather didn't stay as fine. Monday saw winds drop down to 5kts gusting up to 7, just enough to go racing, but the results of the day's practice race and 2 scored races weren't a meaningful indicator of performance. With the wind switching on and off every half hour we finished in the back end of the midfleet in both of the delayed races and the day was eventually called off early as the tide became too strong to sail against in the light winds.
Conditions on day 2 were even worse, a high pressure system brought blue skies and warm air but barely even the slightest puff of wind and the fleet stayed in Gunwharf Quays on "standby to standby to race". We spent the morning baking cookies, exploring the Musto outlet shop and eating pizza before finally, at 3pm, the race comittee made the decision to go racing. The warmer weather had caused a light sea breeze just outside Portsmouth harbour and we were able to manage one race before the light started to fade, again a mid fleet finish for Cambridge. All our training in the weekend's stronger winds wasn't applicable to these lighter conditions where smooth maneuvers and clever tactics were the the key to victory.
Day 3 felt like Deja vu, with the branches on the trees barely moving at all in the light winds, but by midday the wind had built much more than the previous day and the race committee set 2 races round the cans in the central Solent. Conditions were still incredibly light and we continued our performance from previous days, staying in with the mid-fleet but not being able to fight to the front. The second race of the day ended in drama; with the tide going out over Bramble Bank the course setter made the confusing decision to send us racing to the large sand bank, the shallowest part of the Solent. All but the lead two boats ran out of water and were grounded on the bank, leading to the abandonment of the race. Quick thinking by the Cambridge crew meant that we avoided being stuck for long by heeling the boat over as much as possible and motoring off of the bank.
The fourth and final day finally saw the wind we'd been hoping for, and maybe a little more, with 25kts in the morning building to 30+ in the early afternoon. The fleet was split for the last races into gold and silver fleets, with us starting off in the middle of the silver fleet. We had our best two races of the week, in the first medal race we finished in the middle of our fleet, doing well to avoid losing control of the boat or the spinnaker in the strong gusty conditions. The weather was even worse for the second medal race and of the 13 boats in the silver fleet half had to retire due to broken jib halyards, ribbed spinnakers and even a man overboard (he was recovered quickly by the coaching boat and suffered no injuries). We coped incredibly well, managing to fly our spinnaker in over 32kts of wind and scoring our highest-place finish of the week with a third place.
Overall we weren't very happy with the results, but it's been a year of change for the crew with 4 out of the 8 not having raced at BUSA before. We're hopeful that as we continue to grow as a team and better utilise the skills we have on board that we can do even better next year.