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All set for British University Team Racing Championships 2017 Finals

by Tony Mapplebeck on 29 Mar 4-6 April 2017
BUCS-BUSA Western Qualifier at Chew Valley Lake © Nigel Vick

The crème of UK university team racers head for West Kirby Finals. Can Cambridge set a new record? Will it be Exeter, Glasgow, Loughborough, Newcastle or Southampton challenging? Or will others reach peak performance next week?

The annual Team Racing Championships of the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) and British University Sailing Association (BUSA) will be held at on the Marine Lake at West Kirby SC from Tuesday 4 to Thursday 6 April 2017, hosted by the University of Manchester.

This is the culmination of an academic year's selection, training and competition. In February, the largest team racing event, probably worldwide, was simultaneously held over five venues across the UK. Over 500 sailors, in over 86 university teams, competed in Qualifiers. Four of these covered English and Welsh universities. at four venues, In Scotland the event was the third in a series of League weekends. From these five events, 20 teams qualified direct for the BUCS/BUSA Finals. A further fifteen teams went forward to Playoffs, held on Bardowie Loch and hosted by Glasgow and Strathclyde University Sailing Clubs, to find a further seven.

Ella Stoggall, Area Coordinator for South-Central reported on the weekend hosted by Southampton Solent at Oxford SC: "We had a great weekend of racing. The weather forecast leading up to the event said we would have a storm and likely to be blown off! However, on Saturday morning it was the complete opposite. After waiting for the wind, we got 39 races in, a miracle considering the conditions. The mark layers worked continually for the afternoon.

"On Sunday, we pulled off a further miracle, completing the schedule, with the umpires not stopping for tea breaks! - collecting their drinks on the way back to the start line!

"We had a couple of interesting moments on changeovers as, at one point, there were six double-change overs in succession!! We were managing 18 races per hour with the wind between 5-9 knots. We pushed the timings to the limit with a very fast pack-up and teams sliding out of the gates at the 5 o'clock deadline".

Summing up, the South-Central Qualifier only managed 39 races on the Saturday, but then put the pedal to the metal and completed the rest of their 136 races on Sunday. This looks to have been very closely fought, with a couple of tie breaks being used at the top. Southampton Purple came out on top, London White and Southampton Green finished 2nd and 3rd (both on 13 wins), fourth and fifth, on 12 wins, were Oxford Black and Southampton White.

Emma Ward and Calanach Finlayson of Scottish Student Sailing (SSS) reported on the concluding weekend of the Scottish qualifying process: "The sailors arrived at Bardowie (to be greeted by wind!), ready and raring to go with the second round of leagues. Due to sharing the facilities with an open-water swimming event, there was a delayed start. As soon as the last swimmer was off the water, the well-oiled SSS machine kicked into play; boats were launched, the course was laid and Fireflies were rigged. In the space of 20 minutes, the first race of League 2 was underway. The 45 races in the league ran with little interruption and only one capsize. The wind started to die off as the playoffs of League 2 were completed, and the race committee just managed to squeeze in the first few races of League 3 before the sun set and the final few puffs of air drifted over Bardowie.

"Sailors arrived back at Bardowie early on Sunday and were greeted by a mirror of a loch. Various ingenious solutions were conjured up for creating some breeze, but, unfortunately, none were viable. Racing was canned at 12noon as there were insufficient daylight hours remaining to complete a league, even if the breeze did arrive. It had been hoped to complete another league, but the results as they stood were good.

"Having the University of the Highlands join in the leagues for the first time was a great success for this year. We hope to see them back next year!". The SSS correspondents also referred to the opportunity for Napier and Stirling students to participate in the 'SSS Dream Teams' without conflicting with the BUCS qualification process and to the fact that five different universities made it through to Finals and/or Playoffs. A particular tribute was made to Emily Robertson, the Scottish BUSA Representative for the last two years, who had organised the Leagues: "The Scottish qualifiers have gone from strength to strength since she took the role, and she has left big boots to fill. We will miss you Emily!!!".

To sum up, the Scottish qualifiers were held over a series of three weekends and made use of leagues, so the 21 teams entered were, perhaps, not under as much stress as everyone else over the final weekend. They only managed 49 races on Saturday, due to lack of wind, but It seemed that it may have been the best day of racing in their entire, just showing what strange weather we are getting. 1st were Glasgow Pink (9 wins out of 10 races), 2nd Strathclyde Blue (8 wins), 3rd Edinburgh Blue (7 wins) and 4th Glasgow Blue (3 wins).

For the Northern Qualifier, hosted by Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam at Pennine SC, Lucy Storey, the Area Organiser and PRO, Sean Clarkson issued regular bulletins over the weekend. Lucy wrote after day 1: "Having trained and partied together throughout the semester, today's competition made for some intense encounters! Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam, alongside PRO Sean Clarkson, worked seamlessly to manage 65 races only having to stop early for shortage of wind. Richard Cornah handled the depths of Pennine SCs Winscar Reservoir with ease to lay a perfect course all day, with a lovely long West Kirby-styley run. Many a cover and conversion seen on that leg of the course. Carol Haines, David Battye, and new umpiring blood, Matt Goodbourn, covered the three flights between them superbly; a quote from competitors: 'races were well umpired with a nice variety of coloured flags'. Racing concluded for day 1 at the Northern qualifiers after 65 races.

With no wind to start with (AP looking distinctly droopy), light winds eventually enabled some sailing on the Sunday, Sean Clarkson reported: "Stop and go racing, trying to get through the races amidst changing wind speed and direction....one race at a time!!" At the end of the day at the Northern Qualifier, 100 races had been completed, amidst fading light and dying wind!"

The Northern was second largest Qualifier, with 20 teams entered. Despite the weather, they managed 100 races and finished with Newcastle Blue, Manchester Purple and Leeds Green all on 9 race wins, but finishing in that order. Liverpool Red and Durham Purple are shown as both on 8 wins, but the tie break went to Liverpool, so was listed in fourth place.

In the Midlands, Area Organiser, Bryan Ormond worked with PRO Tim Palmer to achieve a sound basis for qualification. Anthony Butler reported: "Light winds posed a challenge for the team running the Midlands Qualifiers, with 17 teams entered, requiring 136 races for a complete round robin. Good coordination enabled 59 races to be completed on Saturday (between 6 and 8 per team)".

On Sunday morning, the race team found heavy fog to contend with. The Race Officer was heard to ask: "can anyone tell me where the finish boat is? I can't see it through the fog". Hoots and sound signals were used to locate the position of marks and committee boats. Radio traffic was closely monitored at the Race Office, when the RO was heard to say: "Marks 1, from Race Officer, please can you drive towards upwind mark. [...] OK, abort, you've just disappeared into the fog." Anyway, clearly there was impressive work by the course team, who managed to lay an invisible course, under the close (yet blind) watch of PRO Tim Palmer. All was revealed when the fog eventually lifted. Indeed, as racing quickly got underway, Tim Gratton, BUSA Team Captain and Cambridge Blue helm, was able to report: "Glamour winds. Glamour visibility. Glamour day." (well, he would, wouldn't he, with all three Cambridge teams qualifying by the end of the day). As it was, all teams had each sailed 13 races, sufficient for a sound result. Bryan Ormond was heard to muse: "An achievement - no one quite understood how that happened in these conditions".

In summary, the Midland Qualifier at Grafham Water, hosted by Cambridge, suffered, not just from a lack of wind, but a lack of visibility due to fog. Nevertheless, they completed 111 races over the weekend and the leaders were Cambridge Blue, Black and Purple, with Warwick Black in fourth place.

The Playoffs were hosted by Glasgow and Strathclyde USCs on Bardowie Loch. Communications with the outside world was maintained by BUSA Scottish Representative, Emily Robertson, with help from a cheerful on-the-water team, including a particularly photogenic dog.

Apparently, Day 1 "brought some wind, some reflection, some flags... and a great deal of joy!" – much of which was recorded on video, including rare overhead footage by Peter Cameron and broadcast for posterity via Facebook and YouTube. Early reports indicated that "AP just came down after a short postponement due to dying wind. 40 races complete, all teams have sailed 4-6 races, and Loughborough Purple, Imperial Blue, Plymouth White and Southampton White (were) fighting it out at the top of the table!". Later: "After a period of compulsory 'Bardowie time', when the water was a little more reflective than would be desired" ('the wind looks like it's shutting down everywhere' - Course Manager), they were back on the water and hit the ground running! - going into sequence for race 51". All too soon after that came the news: "Racing has been canned for the day due to Bardowie completing its transformation into a mirror after 53 races in rather challenging conditions – well done to Loughborough Purple who remain unbeaten overnight". All set for the usual Glasgow hospitality and renowned ceilidh.

Sunday dawned glassy, "a beautiful day for swimming! Alas, not what we wanted. Racing has been canned for the day once again, due to the serene reflections of Bardowie Loch. We finished on 61 races, with everyone having sailed 8 races each", sufficient to satisfy the BUSA Technical Delegates....and BUSA Ladies' Captain, Millie Gibbons, captain of Loughborough Purple was evidently celebrating.

Loughborough Purple, Southampton White, Swansea Green, Plymouth White, Durham Purple, Imperial Blue and London Purple qualified at the Playoffs, to join the 20 teams qualifying at the Area Qualifiers.

The Results of the Qualifiers and Playoffs, in terms of qualification, are reproduced below. More detailed results may be found via the Ksail link below.

BUSA would like to take the opportunity of thanking all those involved in delivering a successful round of Qualifiers and Playoffs, including the hosting universities and their sailing clubs, the many volunteers and officials, including race officers and umpires. In particular, the Area Organisers did a great job to assure the planning and delivery, making all this possible.

In addition to the UK qualifying teams, the Irish University Sailing Association is invited to nominate a team to compete at the Finals. Following their success at the Irish Intervarsities at Clifden Boat Club between 10 & 12 March, Trinity Dublin will be sailing at the Finals at West Kirby Sailing Club next week.

So, will Cambridge set a record by winning a fourth consecutive Championship? Will it be one of the other leaders from the Qualifiers - Exeter, Glasgow, Newcastle or Southampton – to take the Trophy? Or maybe, Loughborough, boosted by its win at the Playoffs, or one of the several other universities that successfully qualified, will rise to the challenge at West Kirby.

Information about how to follow next week's BUCS/BUSA Team Racing Championship Finals is listed below, together with links to photograph albums from the Qualifiers and Playoffs.

Follow the Finals on the official BUSA Championship page for all Notices and documentation.

Live Results and other information will be posted on events.ksail.co.uk/2017/BUSAFinals

Follow the event on the BUSA Sailing Facebook page and on twitter.

Photo Galleries from the Qualifiers and Playoffs:

BUSA Sailing Facebook galleries for Qualifiers and League 3: www.facebook.com/groups/busasailing/photos/?filter=albums

BUSA Team Racing Playoffs 2017: www.facebook.com/pg/Scottish-Student-Sailing-1423085407949960/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1884019438523219

With thanks to all our correspondents and photographers.

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