Four days of intense racing took place in the Solent on the 2nd-5th April for the British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) and British Universities Sailing Associations’ (BUSA) Yachting Championships 2012. Utilising Sunsail’s fleet of F40s, based at Port Solent, twenty-nine teams, each of eight sailors, took part in this unique event of eight races, including two coastal courses.

Exeter University won the Championship in what had been tricky conditions all week. Leading the winning team was Matt Rainback, with his crew Hannah Diamond, James Anderson, Ollie Kemp, Alice Butler, Suzy Russell, Steve Gibson and Toby Collinson.

Team Exeter faced stiff competition from local team, Portsmouth Plum, led by Ed Impey, which finished only three points behind. Portsmouth Plum won three of the eight races, including the two coastal races, as well as the last race of the event. Ed’s crew included Ollie Clarke, Neil Payne, Harry Houlding, Hattie Poulter, Nicola McLaughlin, Tom Foster and Liam Gardner.

In third place, and only five points behind Portsmouth Plum, was Plymouth Pink, led by Chris Matthews. The Plymouth University team (one of four competing), sailed a consistent week with most results in the top eight. Chris’ team included Evee Allen, Rob Thomas, Marcel Herrera, Adam Parry, Fleur Moisan, Leo Schofield and Dom Silman.

Speaking of the penultimate day’s Inshore Long Race, Race Officer Mike Rayden said: “After a constructive start with light winds, and a complete lack of wind at the western end of the course, the wind filled in and the fleet sorted itself into its finishing order, with the winners, Portsmouth making a magnificent effort to beat Cambridge”.

Along with the rest of the fleet, Portsmouth had, in the Long Inshore Race, to use their kedge anchor to wait for wind (which eventually came through to facilitate an exciting second half of the race), but skipper Ed Impey apparently expects home cooking, and lemon drizzle cake was duly baked. The Race Committee were disappointed that the Portsmouth team failed to present any cak to them at the finish. That afternoon, the Portsmouth team were awarded the Jim Saltonstall Teapot Trophy at the conclusion of the Event Coach, Mike Barham’s daily video de-briefing session, Ed Impey confirmed that it had been “a good, but tiring day – having to anchor in the middle of the course was a new one to me!”

Portsmouth celebrations carried through to the final day, when they ended the Championship in 2nd overall by winning the final race too. With a significant deterioration in the weather, the fleet were required to make a reef and, to some helm’s disappointment being unable to use their spinnakers, but with a wind strength exceeded 20 knots the racing was exciting enough!

Champion helm, Matt Rainback of Exeter, confirmed that it had been “a very long week, pretty tough and very tiring – but overall very good! The Race Committee did a really good job given the variable conditions. We were very pleasantly surprised to find the Sunsail boats, which had been new last year, were pretty much in the same condition as before. Thanks to the Bosuns for their work each day and overnight ensured good equipment throughout. We came thinking that the competition would be tough, but thanks to our team working really well together – hats off to them – we are delighted to have won”.

After the prize giving, Portsmouth Plum’s skipper Ed Impey and Neil Payne (on main), spoke of their three-year journey to this year’s success. Both had come to University with no previous keelboat experience, Ed from the 420 Squad and Neil from the 29er, but they had relished the opportunity afforded at Portsmouth to build a team (several of whom would be ready for more next year) and to gain good results over the three years, culminating in achieving a great outcome to celebrate their forthcoming graduation.

Chris Matthews, skipper of Plymouth Pink, praised his “very good team”, explaining that team selection had been carefully done, more aimed at building a team of sailors who would work well together, rather than based upon individual sailing ability alone; the outcome was a result of building capacity and training everyone for a successful outcome.

Teams qualifying for the Student Yachting World Cup in September are Exeter, Glasgow and Swansea! So we look forward to seeing how they perform later this year.

Our thanks go to the Race Committee, Officials and Coaches and to all at Sunsail for their large contribution making such a successful event, which for many will have been their first major keelboat championship, while for others is the pinnacle of their student sailing careers. Thanks also go to the RYA Offshore Racing Group and JOG for coming to talk to BUSA members about Offshore Safety and the new JOG University Offshore Trophy.

Final Results
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