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Henri-Lloyd - For the Obsessed

Halloween Howler Team Racing at West Riding Sailing Club

by Tony Mapplebeck 2 Nov 2012 09:06 GMT 27-28 October 2012

Leeds University's Halloween Howler starts the year: Cambridge sets the pace

Thirteen British University teams converged on Leeds and West Riding Sailing Club for the first of the season's student team racing events that will run through to next March. In addition to the strong turnout from northern universities - Lancaster, Newcastle (2 teams), Sheffield (2), as well as Leeds Freshers and Leeds Old Boys - teams travelled from as far as the University of West of England (UWE) at Bristol, Cambridge (2) and Nottingham (3)

USCs have had a busy few weeks of the new academic year, recruiting new sailors at Freshers' Week, ensuring a fun start with a good emphasis on the social side, but getting sailing underway at their nearest sailing club – often a Wednesday afternoon activity with both a steep learning curve for new sailors and the beginning of team race training and team selection for the more experienced.

The effectiveness of this early work was in evidence at West Riding last weekend. Several USCs were commenting on the strong numbers of fresher sailors this year – Nottingham had three teams competing at the Howler, and we are pretty sure that we heard some seasoned team racers commenting positively that Nottingham 1 seemed to have several freshers!

Typically, USCs saw this event as the start a serious season of competition aimed at qualifying for the BUCS/BUSA National Championship next April. With area Qualifiers, together with a further chance to qualify a team through national Playoffs, in February/March, every opportunity will be taken to gain competition experience. And the criteria for a 'good' event will include the number of races that can be squeezed in by the Race Committee and the standard of competition.

The other important criteria for a successful weekend will be the social programme laid on by the host USC. Indeed, particularly at this early stage of the year, this may be the primary consideration for some! – it's all about bonding! The Facebook write-ups after the Howler tell tales of many escapades, in the spirit of Halloween, and most sailors seemed to have the stamina to arrive ready and focussed for action on the water, even if some did look at the lunch laid on by the professional caterers with some caution! It was summed up by Newcastle USCs Media Officer, Chris Woods: "we made what surely must be Newcastle sailing history by being the first team at the club... cheers for a great weekend, hope you all had as much fun as I think I did!"

This event was wholly run by the University Sailing Club, which is sponsored by AmeriCamp.com and First40Charter.com. A team of fifteen volunteers was led by Commodore, Ali Sims, who acted as OOD. The racing itself was managed by members of the Committee, together with two experienced Umpires. Wakefield Sea Cadets drove additional RIBs they supplied so as to ensure smooth changeovers on the water. Sunny weather and a fair breeze on Saturday set the tone for the event. By the end of sailing on the first day, 45 races of the Round Robin had been sailed. The Cambridge, and two of the Nottingham, teams were heading the leader board on average scores. A further 33 races of the Round Robin were completed on Sunday, before Semi Finals and Finals. Cambridge Pink beat Nottingham 1 in the first of the semis, and Cambridge Blue, the Leeds Old Boys. In the all-Cambridge Final, the Blue team had the edge.

Secretary of UWE SC, Jilly Darling summed up the event: "Overall it was a really good weekend. The racing was well run and Ali Sims and the rest of Leeds were working so hard to make sure everything ran smoothly! UWE had a great weekend, very competitive and extremely well run racing, as well as the socials to give it that "uni" feel. Special mention has to go to Ali Sims for putting everything he had into the event."

Cambridge Captain, Josh Flack explained "we went to the Howler having done little training so far, but knowing that we have a talented squad. So, we really just wanted to see where we stand, and start to work on the basics of spotting your combination and pulling the conversions. To have both teams do that well was a very encouraging start to the season! We had a little bit of trepidation with the slow start on Saturday morning, but after that we had a great event and whacked through the races. It's not often that you get close to 20 races in a weekend. So a massive thanks to Ali and all the Leeds gang for that!". A great start to the 2012-13 university team racing season.

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