After what can only be described as a hectic week for the eight members of our yachting team trying to organise their lives to miss a week of uni we were all in a bus headed down to Portsmouth. Once Suzy managed to differenciate the accelerator from the brake we miraculously all made it down south in one piece. After the super kind hospitality of Suzy’s parents on the Friday night we were ready to start the practise racing on the Saturday.
All things considered (we turned off our engine and unfurled the jib with 45 seconds to the start) we had pretty good start to the first race and an interesting pile up at the first windward mark, which somehow we came out of only with a broken dam buoy, left us in third where we finished the first race. Another couple of races occurred which gave us all a chance to familiarise/ learn the boat but we lacked boat speed in the light airs, arguably down to the extra 500kgs of water which we were carrying on board.
After a late night down at Hayling Island Sailing Club, combined with the clocks going forward, a groggy EUSC woke up on the Sunday morning with Dad (Archie) threating to leave us behind if we didn’t hurry up – a theme for the week. We had another couple of practise races in light and shifty airs until the commodore managed to knock himself out with the spinnaker pole prompting a short diversion to Cowes in order to drop him off at the hospital. After a CT scan to check his brain was still there the team regrouped to find ourselves in four protest hearings having raced five races. After some clarification of the rules to some of the other boats we were happy to find all four dismissed and find ourself fifth in the practise series overall. Not our best result but we were confident we more to give.
The first day of BUCS dawned and with 24 university teams on the start line and the sun making one of two appearances for the week we were ready to go. The first start was interesting with two boats coming down on top of us when they had no room but we escaped unscathed but buried deep in the fleet. We struggled to sail our way out in very light and puffy breeze and finished the race in tenth. We had a better race in the second windward leeward of the day coming fifth and then finally managed to get a good start away in the first coastal race where we managed to post a second and only narrowly missing out on first. With the results posted it seemed that almost everyone had struggled to stay consistent in the light airs and it left us first after day 1.
On the second day there was another W/L and Edinburgh had a good start and first lap going into the final windward mark in 2nd. After a tense run we crossed the line in 4th after a luffing battle with Solent. Then came the second offshore race and Edinburgh rounded the first mark in around 12th with a tight reach to be followed by a run. The race started off in 15 knots but the wind shut off as the first boats reached the second mark. We boldly chose to stay in the breeze and sail practically away from the mark. Being the most windward boat paid off and we rounded the last mark ahead of all but one boat. Unfortunately, although we were gaining on first up the final beat we ran out of water and settled for an impressive second which left us still at the top of the overall leader board.
The final day of the qualifying series started in a light and shifty breeze with all the top crews struggling on the first race and Edinburgh scoring a 17. Luckily our next race was better recording a 4th and we were leading up the final beat of the last race when our main halyard snapped. Luckily with some quick thinking and a spare spinnaker halyard we managed to recover and recorded a 5th leaving us in third going into the final three race shoot-out.
The final day gave us a blustery 20 knots and eight teams left to compete for the top places in the championship fleet. EUSC started with a cracking race; sailing through the fleet and snatching a bullet on the line from Strath and Solent. The second race gave us a 4th and unfortunately an unplanned man-overboard drill. However, with all 8 crew back on board we raced in the final race of the regatta; however, a third wasn’t enough to overhaul Solent or Exeter who had both raced really well over the week. It was however enough for us to finally beat Strath and be the top female helm and gain us qualification for SYWOC (World Championships) in the autumn.
Without doubt it was a great week and effort by all. Special thanks has to go to Suzy Peter’s family for hosting us in Hayling Island for the whole week.