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British University Fleet Racing Championships 2016-17

by Tony Mapplebeck 14 Nov 2016 10:37 GMT 5-6 November 2016

Exeter women and Southampton men win Team Trophies

British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) and British University Sailing Association (BUSA) held the annual Fleet Racing Championships at Draycote Water SC over the weekend of 5 – 6 November, hosted by the University of Warwick Sailing Club. There was a record entry of over 240 student sailors, from a record 25 universities.

In each of four fleets - Fast and Slow Handicap, Laser and Firefly - there were champions were crowned and the top four boats in each took home vital BUCS Points to their Athletic/Sports Unions to help with funding. Then male and female university teams (top three ranked boats in each across all four fleets qualifying) competed for Team Trophies and further BUCS Points.

Amongst the contestants were many seasoned university sailors with strong records at the event and in the other sailing disciplines, together with a new influx of freshers. Many came with successful competitive records at national and international events, current and past members of RYA youth and Olympic potential squads. But the event is the first of the year and attracts many freshers and others new to student sailing, but familiar with fleet racing at club level, or even relative novices ready to crew a Firefly with a more experienced helm (who themselves may have more often crewed in the past!). The Championship provides team-building opportunities for sailors from each university sailing club, as well as an introduction to the student sailing scene at a national level and a great opportunity to network, which will be extended through a season of team, match and yacht racing.

There was no doubt as teams travelled to Draycote, south of Rugby, that we were in for a cold weekend. But the wind was good for the racing and there was some sunshine on both mornings, though the Handicap and Laser fleets did experience some unpleasant rain toward the end of racing on Sunday.

BUSA Technical Delegate, Neil Marshall gave a summary of the racing from a Race Committee perspective: "Saturday saw racing run over two courses, with the wind in the high teens, gusting into the mid twenties. The Fireflies managed three windward leeward races, with a leeward gate and windward finish. The handicap classes and Lasers managed four windward leeward races, with some spectacular downwind action! Sunday dawned with slightly more breeze than Saturday, and a bitterly cold wind chill. All fleets were run on a single course, with Fireflies managing two windward leewards, before being sent in to allow the Lasers, followed by Slow and Fast Handicap fleets, to get two further races in".

Manchester entered the event for the first time for many years. Phil Aldhous reflected on the experience afterwards: "This was my first time helming at a big fleet event, having done numerous years of team racing and previously crewing from a young age. I had a very experienced crew (Daniel Blight) who was able to guide me around the course and help me adjust to the congested starting procedure compared to team racing! We had entered three male boats with the aim of all doing okay in our fleets and hoping that we would finish in the top eight teams to secure BUCS Points. Our Athletic Union had been pushing us to win some to justify our funding, so the pressure was on.

"I was very surprised at how well our first start and beat went to put us in the top five. The conditions suited our slightly heavy boat well. We just focused on sailing fast through the first race and keeping in clear wind, which paid off as we were first across the line! Such an amazing feeling to look back and see so many boats behind you. The rest of the races were all very competitive and a slightly slow start, or mistake on the run, and you could easily lose a fair few places. Never expected to be in 3rd overnight and put in extra effort for Sunday to try and stay in the top five. We finished the weekend with a successful protest hearing (my first ever) to bump us up to fourth, not the best way to end a weekend, but we were delighted with the BUCS points. The event was managed excellently, and we enjoyed the amount of racing time we got over the weekend, thanks to BUSA and Warwick uni for their efforts to make it so successful."

Another newcomer to the Fleets, though in his 2nd year and now Bath's Team Captain (and certainly no newcomer to helming in large-fleet, performance racing), was Matt Lulham-Robinson. He told us: "This was my first BUSA Fleets. I really enjoyed the event. I had not sailed a GP before. The socials were really good fun. It was a great opportunity to get to know other teams, to catch up with many I had sailed with in the past and to meet new people. I liked the format, quick races; especially as it was pretty cold. It was close racing - interesting to be back lake sailing after a lot of coastal racing - shifty, tricky stuff. The Fleet Champs are really important, early in the calendar. Most going to university have not done much team racing before; 80% - 90% come from fleet racing, whether squads or club sailing. So, the Fleets provide a good transition into university sailing".

A veteran of this event – she helmed the winning 420 in the Slow Handicap in 2013 and was 2nd in a Firefly in 2014, for her alma mater, Exeter - Nia Jones was back at the Fleets, but with Durham (where she is now a medic.). Nia said: "'I think the event was a lot better placed, although I love having a sea venue, like Plymouth. Draycote is a lot more inclusive for universities in the North. Without this particular location, I doubt we would have competed.

"The Lark was a completely new experience for me, having never helmed one before. But I loved being back out on the water again and being in the mix, even if we could have done with a few more pounds on the boat! I have never competed in a light-winds fleet. The standard of racing is always high, especially having previously competed in both the Slow Handicap and Fireflies. I mean we have Olympic Development sailors competing, which is brilliant to see. For myself, it is a big attraction knowing that I'll need to push myself on the water.

"I do wish there was more of a fleets scene in university sailing and not just the one event. However, the demands of medicine have, unfortunately, put sailing on a bit of a back burner, so an event like this is ideal to just go out and enjoy yourself on the water, whilst competing in some brilliant racing [Nia and Durham Captain, Maddie Harris, took 6th in the Slow Handicap Fleet]. It was great to see Durham perform so well; a shame Maddie and I couldn't medal as a team, but brilliant for the university achieving third Ladies."

Cambridge have not been regulars at the Fleets (usually focusing on team racing), but some former Captains and postgrad. members of the club decided to enter this year, as the event was being held in the Midlands. Arthur Henderson, sailing with Tom Maxwell, the organiser of the 2016 Team Racing Champs, took third overall in the Firefly Fleet. As they headed off, Arthur said: "Thanks to BUSA for a fantastic weekend. Brilliant sailing with 67 Fireflies. Anyone in the top 20 could have won a race in some pretty blustery conditions. Great to take home medals. This is an event we will definitely look forward to doing again next year".

Silver medallist at the Streaker Nationals 2016, Dovestone SC sailor, Isaac Marsh, representing the University of Huddersfield, reflected: "As a 4th year student, this is my last year, last chance to sail with BUCS-BUSA. I started sailing the Streaker about seven months ago, managing to take 2nd in this year's Nationals. The BUSA Fleets has been welcoming, friendly and well-organised. I was surprised at the large turnout, particularly considering the forecast. The racing was at quite a high standard, tricky conditions; even in a mixed handicap fleet, I was pushed around the course by several classes. Across all the fleets, there were high standards of racing, including sailors from youth and Olympic squads. Thank you."

Matt Whitfield (Southampton), who won the Laser Fleet Championship, explained: "My expectations were high for the event after the good reviews from people who went last year as it is my first Fleets. I had a good experience at BUSA team racing and, coming from Southampton, there is an expectation of a good result with a few BUCS points being achieved, along with a really good social scene, seeing many friends from younger years was a massive plus for the event. Also, being part of the British Sailing Team's P3 squad meant that I felt pressure to perform, and it was a really good way of helping me learn how to dictate the fleet.

"The event was well organised considering the challenging conditions of a short fetch for the wind across the lake leading to big shifts and many place changes to always keep you on your toes from start to finish, as massive gains and losses were open all the time. In the Laser, there was a good bunch of 5-6 who could be up there at any given point, which led for diverse racing and not a procession. Also thanks to Warwick Uni and BUSA who worked really well to make all run smoothly, and I am already looking forward to competing next year wherever it may be!

"The Fleets is a great way to learn the uni sailing scene as it provides a link between youth fleet racing and different uni sailing, with the options of the well-used Fireflies or other handicap classes."

29er veteran, Alice Masterman (Southampton), who crewed the leading women's boat in the Fast Handicap Fleet, said: "The Fleets are a great event, despite the cold! I wish we had more fleet racing style events throughout the year as you can see by the participation - it's really popular! It's great to race against renowned sailors and also to have a laugh with a mix of combinations. For example, Hatty (Ward) and I competed against each other for so long, and now we raced together. It's a shame it wasn't enough to beat Exeter, but receiving a medal, nonetheless, is awesome. I love the Fleets as I get to see lots of old friends from other unis, and the socials are great fun. The level of racing was also really good, but everyone takes a chilled approach and the races are short and sweet, meaning no one comes away too frustrated. It was a fun event to end my uni sailing; just a shame about the weather and cold."

Her helm at this event, Hattie Ward added: "This was my first fleets, and I will definitely be going again next year! I had an amazing time and it was great to see old friends from other universities, as well as get to know people in the older years in the Southampton sailing team better. The racing was different to what I'm used to, but it was really enjoyable how friendly the racing and competition was".

A last word from the sailors came from Jolyon Ferron (Cardiff), BUSAs Yachting Captain and sailing a Firefly with Matt Wallis, a former BUSA Champion helm in the Slow Handicap Fleet. They came back this year to finish the business of last year, when they took 2nd together in the Firefly Fleet. "Cardiff had a fantastic time at Fleets, and it was nice to get in as many races as we did. The highlight of our event was being able to share the podium with our fellow Cardiff team mates, Toby Morsley and Harry Hampson, who wins the prize for the most fun fresher to ever exist. The last race was especially funny for us as Toby was in second between the two Wallis brothers, otherwise known as a 'Wallis sandwich'!"

Neil Marshall, the BUSA Technical Delegate, summed up: "BUSA received four strong bids to host the Fleet Racing Championships this year, and the Committee deliberated hard over who to award the event to. We took into account feedback from competitors about the location in previous years, and also that they would not be averse to racing at an inland reservoir, thus Warwick was chosen to, hopefully, satisfy concerns from previous years, whilst also providing a high calibre event on a large patch of inland water! We're really grateful for how excellently all competitors behaved, and how strong our volunteers from UWSC were, given the feedback I think we're really pleased that this year was so successful; we are already looking at how we can make the event even better for the 17-18 year!" We particularly thank John Burgoine, PRO, and Tom Rusbridge, RO, together with the staff and members of Draycote Water SC, and an especial mention of Warwick Commodore, who initiated the Warwick bid and led a great team.

The Trophies and BUCS Medals were awarded by Jenny Morris, BUCS Sports Manager. The full results can be found on the event page on the BUSA Calendar att The full list of the Champions of the Fleets and Medalists and the Men's and Ladies Team Trophies and award of BUCS Points is appended.

We also thank Malcolm Lewin for the use of some of his photographs. His full gallery may be found at

BUCS-BUSA Fleet Racing Championships 2016 Results:

Fleet Leaders and Team Results (top four)

Fast Handicap
1st Crispin Beaumont & Tom Darling - University of Southampton – 29er – 12 BUCS Points
2nd Henry Edwards & Tomas Joesbury - University of Liverpool – 29er – 8 BUCS Points
3rd Ben Pickering - University of Southampton – Blaze – 6 BUCS Points
4th Hatty Ward & Alice Masterman - University of Southampton – 29er – 4 BUCS Points

1st Matthew Wallis & Jolyon Ferron - Cardiff University – 12 BUCS Points
2nd Henry Edwards & Harry Hampson - Cardiff University – 8 BUCS Points
3rd Arthur Henderson & Tom Maxwell - University of Cambridge – 6 BUCS Points
4th Philip Aldhous & Daniel Blight - University of Manchester – 4 BUCS Points

1st Matt Whitfield - University of Southampton – 12 BUCS Points
2nd Jack Rockett - University of Sussex – 8 BUCS Points
3rd Laura Gilmore - University of Exeter – Laser Radial - 6 BUCS Points
4th Matt Hall - University of Sussex – 4 BUCS Points

Slow Handicap
1st Matthew Lulham-Robinson & Ellen Devereux - University of Bath – GP14 – 12 BUCS Points
2nd Isaac Marsh - University of Huddersfield - Streaker – 8 BUCS Points
3rd Emma Mcknight & Emma Baker – University of Exeter – 420 - 6 BUCS Points
4th Mark Thomas & Alex Knight - University of Plymouth - Laser 2000 – 4 BUCS Points