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British University Fleet Racing Championships at Draycote Water

by Tony Mapplebeck 17 Nov 2018 15:08 GMT 3-4 November 2018
British University Fleet Racing Championships 2018 © Josh East Photography /

There was another record entry at the annual BUCS Fleet Racing Championships. 250 student sailors, from 25 universities, raced on Draycote Water over the weekend of 3 & 4 November. The British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) and British University Sailing Association (BUSA) annual Fleet Racing Championships was hosted once again by the University of Warwick Sailing Club, in conjunction with Draycote Water Sailing Club.

What are the Fleets in the student sailing calendar?

The Fleets is the first national event of the academic year. Traditionally, it attracts a wide range of sailors, from freshers to postgrad. research students, from club racers to former youth, and current Olympic, squad sailors, together with international racers currently studying in UK universities. There was no exception this year. For freshers, whether hot-shot youth sailors or club racers, this can be a way into student sailing on familiar terms. Each year, many experienced and successful performance sailors participate; this was certainly evident across all four fleets this year. For many serious team racers and keelboat sailors – these disciplines take up much of the student time-on-the-water each academic year - this event combines a weekend of competitive fleet racing early in the year, with an opportunity for clubs to achieve some team-building and bonding that will underpin subsequent progress in competition through the year.

Racing is in four fleets: Fast and Slow Handicap, Laser and Firefly, the latter being popular as a university sailing club's own boats can be used. Many sailors use their own boats in the other fleets, or beg, borrow and charter. There is a spread of experience and skill across all the fleets.

In addition to the individual boat competing with the objective of medalling in its Fleet, there is a strong inter-university competitive edge, with the top four boats in each fleet earning "BUCS points" – to the financial advantage of the successful universities.

But there are also male and female Team Championships. Universities with at least three boats with crews of the same gender compete in each. In addition to the two Team Trophies, there are significant BUCS points to be earned by up to eight university teams in each. Having been introduced four years ago, it is noticeable that many university sailing clubs are increasingly seeking to compete effectively across both Team Championships, although there continues to be the opportunity for mixed double-handers also competing in three of the fleets.

The 2018 edition

This year Bath, Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter, Plymouth and Southampton all sent both male and female teams to compete in both team competitions, with Oxford sailors new to the Championship after many years. Durham and Nottingham also all entered the Women's Team competition. Birmingham, Bournemouth, Imperial, Newcastle, Portsmouth, Solent, Swansea and Warwick had boats entered for the male team competition. Brunel, East Anglia, Edinburgh, Sheffield and West of England were also represented at the event, and three individual Radial sailors entered for the Arts University Bournemouth, Queen Mary University of London and Sussex University.


Handicap & Laser Fleets' Race Officer, Mike Haynes provides a full report on the racing, together with additional commentary by Tom Rusbridge, PRO and RO on the Firefly course.

Saturday morning began with relatively mild and pleasant conditions of a Southerly breeze around 8-12 knots, broken cloud and some sunshine, although the forecast included a threat of some rain showers, locally heavy. This is pretty much how it turned out. There was just one period of rain during the racing. which included some rather gusty conditions and sharp direction changes as the heaviest cloud passed over. The sailors and the safety fleet dealt with this very well and the conditions brightened afterwards and remained pleasant for the rest of the afternoon, with a steady breeze direction allowing the racing to progress smoothly.

To maximise the opportunity for a timely prize giving and departure on the Sunday afternoon, the race team chose to go for completing four races back to back for the first day of the event. The Lasers and the two handicap fleets went to the West end of Draycote Water and the Mark Layer, Dean Gibbons, efficiently set up a WW/LW race track. The Committee Boat displayed a three-lap race for the Laser and Fast fleets and a two-lap race for the Slow fleet.

The sailors displayed excellent start line behaviour and all the first races began with a P start. During the twelve starts of the day there were only two starts where the sailors had to be recalled and had another go under a black flag start. Overall in the event, after six races across all three fleets, only two boats scored BFD and there was only one OCS.

"The weather conditions were ideal for the sailors to be able to demonstrate their skills and enjoy themselves with some really tight racing" commented Mike Haynes, Course Race Officer. "In particular the Laser fleet and the classes which had several entries in the handicap fleets, came across the finish line tightly packed in very quick succession". This gave something of a challenge for the Race Committee team which consisted of three students working with Mike. Using voice recordings and having back-up records, the results post-processing went smoothly, with only a very limited number of queries, readily resolved – a commendable performance.

Racing concluded for the day with four races completed and the sun was just above the horizon as everyone returned to shore. One of the students on the committee boat was heard to say "It was great fun being able to see all the boats lining up and jostling for position on the starts and the finishing process was just amazing - there's so much to do on the committee boat - I had no idea before. It was great fun".

Sunday morning was a little cooler and the now South South Westerly breeze was a few knots stronger as the fleets went out to complete a first race before pausing racing for the 100th anniversary Armistice Remembrance at 11:00am. A further race, similar to Saturday, was completed in plenty of time for all of the signal flags to be lowered, the BUCS flag to be displayed at half-mast and for the sailors, RIBs and Race Committee to observe the two minutes silence, which concluded with a blast of the sound signal. The Race Committee then displayed a four-lap race for the Laser and Fast Handicap fleets and a three-lap race for the Slow Handicap fleet and racing resumed.

Conditions for this final race of the championship had strengthened to a wind-speed of between 16 and 22 knots which provided some really exiting racing. So, for just the few, the safety fleet were a little bit busier with those who capsized. The longer race also allowed the boats to spread a little further apart, and the finishing for the final race was much easier for the Race Committee. This allowed the results to be quickly input into the computer and the prize giving was able to be scheduled for before 2:00pm, allowing plenty of time for the sailors to wash off their boats, pack them up and set off home after a really enjoyable event.

Tom Rusbridge, PRO and RO on the Firefly course added: WWe had a great weekend - Draycote and UWSC delivered once again on a seamless operation shoreside, the Uni volunteers made our lives running the racing that much easier and - bar a brief shower on Saturday lunchtime - the weather gods played ball, more or less all weekend. For the Fireflies we had some really good race starts, with only one general recall and only a small handful of OCS boats all weekend. Big up to our experienced mark layer, Daniel Gibbons and to all the volunteers and officials who made it possible". For the record, on the Firefly course the starts went as follows: Races 1-4 all P flag starts, only a few overs; Race 5 one general recall, clean on second attempt under black flag; and Race 6 on Sunday all clean on a first attempt P flag.

The Results

See Leaders & Team Results & BUCS Points:

The full results can be found at:

What some sailors had to say

Exeter freshers, Lainey Terkelsen & Emily Gent, in a 420, were crowned Slow Handicap Champions. Lucy said: "..... we were so pleased with our result!! Emily and I hadn't sailed together before so we just wanted to have a fun weekend back in the 420 and get some good results in the bag for Exeter! I thought that the event was organised really well, with perfect conditions, and it was great to have an experienced race team. We especially enjoyed the wind on Sunday and loved getting back on the water in a boat we knew we could sail!

"I was excited for Fleets as I've been told by other sailors that's it's the best event for seeing friends from other uni's, as well as having some competitive racing, so we were both really keen to compete, especially after doing only team racing for the last few weeks. The whole event was organised really well, and I would like to thank everyone that helped things run so smoothly.

"Friday and Saturday nights (from what I can remember!!) were also so much fun with the organised socials, and I would definitely recommend this event to sailors going to uni next year!"

Veteran of the Fleets Champs, Giles Kuzik, who led the Birmingham Fireflies to take 2nd, 3rd and 4th places in the Fleet and to win the Men's Team Championship, reflected: "..... we were really happy as a team and as an individual boat with our performance this week – shame to let 1st slip away, but we were close!

The event this year was made better by the great breeze we had, which, although shifty and gusty at times, was generally pretty windy, making for some exciting racing. The competition was strong, and it was tricky to recover if you made a mistake. Personally, we missed the start of race 1 after doing a practice beat, and recovery to the front of the fleet was definitely a challenge.

"... the event... is one in which many sailors from a range of different classes end up being drawn together in just a few fleets, and so it becomes a great opportunity to sail with different people - either ones you wouldn't otherwise sail with, or those who you used to sail against on the youth circuit, but haven't seen for a while!

"Obviously, a bonus is winning BUCS points for the club, and we are always looking for any extra funding which this may help with.

"It is also good to get some fleet racing in during the university circuit - personally I spend a lot of the main season sailing J24s and having just come back from the Worlds in Garda a couple of months ago, it was nice to do a little more fleet racing before the uni team racing season really gets going over the winter. I think it is an important event to have in the calendar, particularly for those coming into uni who have gone through the RYA squad pathways and often have a lot more experience fleet racing and perhaps very minimal team racing experience (as was the case with myself, a few (or many) years back, when I started uni). It gives them a chance to represent their uni club in a part of sailing that is their strength".

The Firefly Champions, leading the 61 boats that made it to Draycote, were Murray Hampshire and Lewis Lane. Murray, "happy to win!", Hampshire told us: "The Fleets provide racing you don't otherwise get at uni. It was close racing, a nice weekend sailing. With the Fireflies being matched, this is a real test. Very positive feedback from freshers, a load of sailing....and we achieved our highest ever BUCS points!"

What's more to like....he may have said.

Jack Hanslope, Commodore of Exeter, was bouncing at the across-the-board success of his Club's performance in the team competitions, with the Women taking prime position yet again, and the Men raising their game from 6th last year to Bronze in 2018: ""Exeter had an absolutely fantastic weekend at fleets, coming away with 74 [BUCS] points in total, almost doubling our previous best of 38"

Jake Farren-Price (Bristol), led the Laser Standards, after very close racing with Lewis Smith (Edinburgh), his companion on the Laser circuit recently, and Anthony Peake (Bournemouth), last year's Laser Champion and returning to the boat after only one weekend since last year! "I enjoyed the event; we had some great conditions with a couple of squalls coming through to spice up the racing a bit. I had some great battles with Lewis Smith and Anthony Parke all the way round the course on both days. It was great, tight racing, as always in the Laser. Fair play to the Radials, Daisy and Monika, they sailed consistently well; it turned out to be closer than I thought with only a point separating us three.

"The Fleets is always a great event as the turnout is one of the biggest university sailing events over the year. Racing for Bristol is an honour, and I'm doing my bit for the team to try and collect BUCS points for them. The support from the Bristol Sailing Club during the event was amazing, like having my own 'Jake Farren-Price Racing Team', a special thanks has to go to them!"

"Thanks to the race management for delivering an excellent, fair series and to BUSA and Warwick University for the organisation of the event".

But Jake had predicted before the event that "we will have to watch the Radials, especially if it is windy", and watch they did as the results were calculated. This was a very talented Radial fleet. Leading Radial from 2017, Anya Haji-Michael (Exeter) came 3rd Radial this year (6th overall in the Lasers), joined in the top ten by Molly Sacker (Exeter) in 7th and Iona Dixon (Queen Mary University of London) in 8th.

But the greatest excitement at the front of the Fleet was the battle between Monika Mikkola (Exeter), who qualified Finland for the 2020 Olympics in August with a 4th in the Laser World championships at Aarhus, Denmark and British Sailing Team member, Daisy Collingridge (Bath), who took Bronze in the 2017 Youth Worlds in Sanya, China. By 1 point, Daisy Collingridge was declared BUCS Laser Champion 2018.

Daisy, a Bath Fresher, was straight off to an RYA Olympic Squad camp from Draycote, but called us back to tell us about her experience: "The Exeter Captain called me a couple of weeks before I got to Exeter to start term to ask (? Tell) me to go the BUCS Fleet Championships for the team. 'Fleet Championships?' I checked my diary and saw that it was right before the RYA Camp, so I was (just) free. I really did not know what to expect. It was a weird feeling. But there were 40-odd people there that I knew! – from way back, even from Cadets. It was such a nice atmosphere. On the water, it was a tad cold and we do not usually race on a handicap basis (with the Standards). I had to re-think my strategy, but the Radials did not get destroyed. It was shifty, gusty and snakes & ladders, but maybe the wind helped us."

Monika Mikkola (Exeter) also found competing in the Fleets was expected of her, as a member of the Exeter Sports Scholarship programme. She too found the racing different to her experience in Laser Radial (and previously Optimist & 4.7) fleet racing (Finland, like most European and other countries focuses on fleet racing in a smaller number of classes than the plethora in UK club sailing). But she was also surprised by how very social the university championships were. "It was very encouraging and so friendly".

As sometimes happens at Fleets a keen sailor and overseas student at a university without a sailing club affiliated to BUSA wants to race competitively and finds their way to the event. With a little help from her mates at Bournemouth University Sailing Club (to carry her and her precious ROU sail) and, from a kindly Draycote Water SC Laser sailor (arranged through the equally kindly Office and General Managers, of course!), a charter boat, Ebru Bolat (Arts University Bournemouth) made it! Another former World Youth Champs sailor, she is from the Romanian Royal Yacht Club (and Parkstone YC). She confirmed: "It was a lovely experience! Sure, I didn't know everybody, but the BU Sailors were a great company anyway. I'm glad I got a boat and could sail, since that was the only problem I actually had".

The Slow Handicap fleet saw the dual that often arises between the GP14s and 420s in the Fleets, joined (and divided) here by a Yorkshire Wayfarer! Lainey Terkelsen & Emily Gent (Exeter) were the Champions. But the Lulham-Robinson dynasty was much in evidence on the podium too. Matt & Ben had many years successful competition in a 420 together (with Ben usually up front), but here a bit of friendly competition was unleashed – perhaps some banter will ensue!

Ben Lulham-Robinson & Kieran Graham (Newcastle) took the silver in a Wayfarer, while former Champions helm (2016; silver in 2017) had to make do with bronze slot in the GP14.

Ben "really enjoyed" his first BUSA Fleets. "Fantastic, well run, lucky with the wind. Personally, I have not been fleet racing for a couple of years before uni [we think that Ben had headed off for a couple of years of serious rugby]. I really wanted the opportunity to fleet race again - at uni. We had to [put up with people] 'taking the mickey' about sailing in 'an old man's boat', but we really did show the Wayfarer (which I had not sailed before) up well. And interesting to be helming, after all those years crewing; encouraging result! To be fair, trying to catch the 420 upwind in a breeze, there was no chance.

"The race organisation was quite good. Being in the Slow Handicap, we were starting last, but we were not kept waiting around as long as we could have been. With a couple of general recalls in the Fast Handicap, the RO went straight to use the black flag for the restarts.

"Meeting everyone, other sailors, squad members, sailors from well back, was really important. Very interesting to see them now. Your uni mates and sharing in Halls, never seem as close as [the sailors] who 'lived' with each other [through the years] - almost seem like your siblings..

"This was an important weekend away from uni (study), a counter-balance".

Meanwhile, Matt Lulham-Robinson, with a track record at the Fleets since 2016, was sailing with his Bath co-Commodore, Will Ward. Matt told us: "Fleets is my favourite event. We aim for BUCS points, but this is an introduction for freshers, getting them into the team, going away for the weekend, [part of transition into] team racing. But the Fleets is also where you see your mates.

"The competition is so good. Short course racing keeps it more fun and interesting. It is in the nature of Draycote – a bit cold waiting between races, but slight variations, very tactical.

"We had just taken four teams, more than ever before, to the 'Wet Dream' at Reading. Our first team won, and now we are off to the Oxford Magnum next.

The sailors themselves have paid tribute to Draycote Water SC and its staff, to Warwick USC (and especially Tim Haynes, who seemed to be on it, everywhere), to all the Race Committee officials and volunteers, both on and off the water, and to all those who organised this first important event of the 2018-19 season. We were glad to have BUSA Committee members, Abby West (Loughborough – sadly not with a team this year), BUSA Development Officer, and Nicole Ames (Solent – Commodore and "driver"), the South & Central Area Coordinator (we are pretty sure Western Coordinator, Jasper Severn (Bristol) was there, but evidently far to camera shy). They were joined at the prize giving by our new BUCS Coordinator, Cleo Lyn, who was laden with medals and trophies etc. to award!

For information about the event, see and follow the news on BUSA Sailing FB at, where galleries of photos from the event may be found.

Thanks to Josh East (Swansea) who was back with his camera: /

The BUCS- BUSA Championship calendar gets under way this weekend with the first Scottish Team Racing League, as part of the qualifying series for the 2019 BUCS Team Racing Championship 2019. Shortly, the Notices of Race and opening of entries for the BUCS Match Racing and Yachting Championships 2019 will be posted.

We add a special reference here to the RYA-BUSA Women's Team Racing Nationals, to be held at Spinnaker, which may be found on the BUSA Calendar. see

But, all you fleet racers....been to Fleets before, never been, coming to a UK university next year.....put this date in your diary: BUCS Fleet Championships 2019: 9th – 10th November 2019 at Mount Batten, Plymouth.

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