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470 University students compete to qualify for BUSA Team Racing Champs

by Tony Mapplebeck on 9 Feb 2012
Southern-Central group Team Racing Qualifiers at Spinnaker SC © NV Photo www.photoboxgallery.com/NVPhoto - BUSA Team Racing Qualifiers 2012 Two Different - See Titles
470 student sailors took to the water last weekend across the UK. 79 teams representing 36 British Universities, competed in Qualifiers for the BUCS/BUSA Team Racing Championships 2012. Sailors, helpers and officials battled in arctic conditions, with frozen lakes and frozen boats!

Amongst the ‘interesting’ incidents, the finish boat at Chew Valley capsized and emergency hot showers were prescribed for the volunteers who were fished out of a lake that had frozen over as fast as the ice had been broken up! Saturday was the day of the ‘bosuns’ at several of the venues – no taking these guys for granted this time! At all the events, competitors and volunteers alike were commended for their commitment and sportsmanship. This was the weekend that icy conditions were quickly followed, on Saturday evening, by snow across the UK, causing widespread disruption.

The teams were in five ‘area’ groupings: the Scottish Universities (SUSA) at Royal Forth YC, the Northerns at West Kirby SC, the Midlands at Draycote SC, the Southern/Central group at Spinnaker SC and the Westerns at Chew Valley SC. For the Scottish Universities, this formed the third of a series of three league weekends.


The objective was to identify 22 teams to automatically proceed to the Finals to be held from 7 – 9 April at West Kirby SC and to identify a further 17 Teams that will compete in Playoffs on 3 - 4 March at Bardowie Loch, north of Glasgow, with a view to a further eight teams being selected to compete in the Finals. A further two places for the Finals will be decided shortly, with the winner of the BUSA Ladies Championships, taking place on the 10/11 March at Spinnaker SC and the top Irish team from the Irish national championships.

Midlands Organiser at Draycote Water, Tom Ripley, was worried that preparing the frozen boats, including the essential ‘Rigiflex’ support boats, might create a problem in meeting the local objective (given the weather forecast) to complete a full round robin on the Saturday. But, he praised the punctuality and commitment of the 13 teams, with quick changeovers, little prompting, umpires and race officials bravely remaining on the water with few breaks and Draycote’s bosuns plying everyone with hot drinks. 'A seriously commendable effort from all' [....yes, boss!], he says. 'The only recurring problem was the freezing of thicker main sheets, which stopped the helms being able to release downwind. Whilst keeping boats racing, or at least on the water, we were able to replace the most problematic of these and only one redress was requested..... As a result, we had just 78 races to complete, all of which we managed on the Saturday. Teams then helped with de-rigging and left as soon as possible, hoping to avoid the treacherous travel conditions promised by the forecast (snow was already beginning to fall by 3pm)' [there was significant traffic disruption that evening in many parts of the country, so this was a good plan].

Warwick Blue led the event, with Cambridge Pink, on equal points, Loughborough Orange and Nottingham Pink also qualifying for places at the Finals, while Birmingham Blue and Cambridge Yellow earnt places at the Playoffs next month.

Tessa Hamer, BUSAs TR Co-ordinator reports from the Northerns at West Kirby: 'Saturday was challenging for all, with very strong winds and freezing temperatures. This led to plenty of exciting sailing; whether it was keeping the umpires on their toes with fast-paced team racing, or dodging capsized Fireflies. The WKSC galley team did an excellent job keeping everyone in hot soup and tea, while crews were heard discussing tactics to stop hands freezing solid. Thanks to prompt repairs of any boat damage, we were able to keep racing all day and complete over half the round-robin, leaving Durham Blue and Liverpool Pink tied on 100% wins overnight, with plenty of teams still in the mix for qualifying positions. The tough day took its toll, and it was a brave few who stayed on at the club for the disco; accommodation in members’ houses in West Kirby was welcomed as a warm bed wasn’t far away.

'Sunday brought kinder winds (and less ice) as everyone was on the water for 9am. More tactical racing was seen as sailors used wind shifts to their advantage leading to close racing all round, with umpires commenting on the high standard of sailing in general. The breeze steadily increased until the round robin was finally completed by 3pm'. Like Tim in the Midlands, Tessa praised the volunteers who made all this possible: 'Massive thanks must go to all the West Kirby helpers on start/finish boats, changeover RIBs, course management, the galley team and all those who hosted students. Thanks also go to the team of umpires and race officers who made the weekend such a success'.

Tessa may have been too modest to mention that Liverpool Pink won the event, with an impressive 93.8% score-line. With Durham Blue and Purple, Leeds Red and Newcastle Red, they go forward to the Finals. Durham Red, Lancaster Red, Manchester Purple and Sheffield Black achieved places at the Playoffs in March.

In Scotland, the BUSA team racing qualifier weekend was open to the top eight university teams decided by two previous (SUSA) league weekends, with racing commenced on a blank slate. Niall McLeod, SUSAs Team racing Co-ordinator recalled that 'the conditions did not look promising on Saturday morning, looking out (from the Royal Fife YC) at Granton Harbour: it was cold and miserable, with persistent rain and a shifty, gusty wind. After an hour spent laying and re-laying the course, and with a constantly building breeze, SUSA still managed to get most of the way through the first round robin, despite a few capsizes. Thankfully the breeze was consistent and the weather more promising on Sunday, making it easier to work through the race schedule. The second round robin then followed straight on from the first. At the end of a day of some close racing, we had our final results for the 2011-12 SUSA Leagues and BUSA Qualifiers.



'Edinburgh Blue, Strathclyde Blue and Glasgow Black qualify for the BUCS/BUSA Team Racing Championship Finals, whilst Dundee Red and Glasgow Yellow qualify for the BUCS/BUSA Team Racing Championship Playoffs for one last chance to qualify for the finals'.

Meanwhile, down south, the Southern/Central group were busy at Spinnaker SC, Ringwood, hosted by Wessex Sailing Club. Billie Quinlan was organising the event and delivered everything, including the results! But, as she took off for the ski slopes, BUSA Chairman, Ed Morris, kindly delivered a very full report. 'Seventeen teams from across Southern England, fought through freezing conditions to assemble at Blashford Lake, for a round-robin tournament, in order to book a place at subsequent competitions within the championships. Competition looked to be intense, with no fewer than six teams boasting previous medal holders, as well as Solent Black, the current Oxford ‘Top-Gun’ Champions.


'The extremely cold conditions overnight meant that the lake had iced over and that boats were frozen solid. Whilst the Spinnaker Bosuns broke the ice with the more robust motor launches, students used copious amounts of de-icer and hot water to free the boats. By 1330 sailing was possible and racing got underway in earnest; two and half hours of sailing was achieved, until the freezing conditions meant that sailing was stopped at race 40. Whilst there was wind and light, the lake was refreezing, and it was impossible to continue racing as the lake froze around the Fireflies. By the end of Saturday, Solent Black, Southampton Magenta and Southampton Turquoise were all undefeated, with Oxford Blue chasing hard behind. With over 90 races to be run on Sunday, the PRO, Martin Smethers, scheduled a 0900 warning signal for the next morning.

'Overnight a sprinkling of snow made travel trickier for all those involved. However, 16 teams managed to make it to Spinnaker on time. Unfortunately, Reading were unable to get their minibus moving in the snow and had to withdraw......Racing continued with few breaks for around three and a half hours. Whilst sailing started in around 10 knots of breeze, the wind slowly died all day and by 1300 racing was postponed for an hour, with 104 races run. After an hour, it was clear the wind was not coming back and racing was abandoned.

'By this point the top four teams had all met, and Southampton Turquoise had cemented themselves as clear winners; clinical, fast sailing, saw them finish the event without a loss. Further down the order, Oxford Blue finished second; by sailing a conservative regatta, they had notched up nine race wins and were awarded a half race win for an indefinitely postponed re-sail. Close behind them, Southampton Magenta and Solent Black were tied on wins, but, with Solent beating their compatriots in their match, they took third place. The final direct qualifying spot went to Portsmouth White, who caused a few upsets, including beating their local rivals Solent Black. Four Playoff places were awarded at the event [in accordance with the NoR]; these went to Southampton Lilac, Oxford White, London Purple and Oxford Red.

'Overall, the event was a success; tricky conditions did little to deter the Qualifier from running smoothly. Huge thanks must go to the Wessex/Spinnaker team that was headed up by BUSA Southern Rep, Billie Quinlan, as well as all the other helpers from Southampton University and the race officials from Spinnaker Sailing Club'.

The fifth grouping brought university teams from Wales and across the West Country to Chew Valley Lake, near Bristol. It was hosted by the University of the West of England and organised by Andy Pinkham, with a team of helpers from UWE and Chew Valley SC, together with an intrepid team of umpires. Jon Napier reports: 'A frozen lake and no wind greeted the 17 teams at the BUSA Western Qualifier. Attempts to break up the ice hit problems as the broken ice almost instantly refroze. Eventually, the wind picked up, and the ice pack broke apart enough to lay a course and get racing going.

'On Saturday the Qualifier completed 54 races. The wind was initially good, but soon the snow and rain came and the pressure dropped away. A damaged Firefly saw one of the flights drop out while a spare boat was rigged, and these races were re-sailed on Sunday morning. Racing was also hampered by the capsize of the finish boat, leaving two very cold finish officers (who were both fine after a warm shower)!

'Sunday dawned to no wind (but no ice!). After three hours, there was a stable light wind to begin racing and another 16 races were completed before it died away. With every team having raced at least half of their races, the decision was made to end the event and rank teams on percentage wins. Congratulations go to Bristol, Swansea, Bath and Exeter who qualify direct to the Finals (two teams in Bristol’s case). Plymouth, Exeter, UWE and Cardiff will need to head off to Scotland for the Playoffs in a month’s time to try and win a place at the Finals'.

Jessica Beecher summing up the weekend said 'BUSA are extremely proud of all who organised and took part. We are very grateful that the race teams and all the volunteers did such a great job, producing a high standard of racing and fair results, in such tricky conditions'.

Full results and further information are on www.busa.co.uk


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