Seventeen Teams from seven Universities descended on Grafham Water SC last weekend for the BUCS-BUSA Midlands Regional Qualifiers. Competing for places at the BUCS finals, to be held in West Kirby in April, there were 4 direct qualification spots up for grabs with the next 3 teams facing an unappetising trip to Glasgow for the Playoffs. With 3 Cambridge teams in attendance (Blue, Black & Purple), the unprecedented goal was to qualify all the teams directly. It was going to be a tough ask up against fierce competition from our local rivals.
The format of the weekend was a round-robin, ranked by race wins. Two teams of three boats compete in each race, with the boats starting together and racing around a course of buoys towards the finish line. To win a race, a team must amass fewer points (one for first in the race, two for second, and so on) than their opponents. Races therefore hinge on being able to slow down or block opposition boats allowing your team mates to overtake them – not as easy as it sounds!
Day one dawned with light and patchy winds, making for some testing and nervous races. Excellent efficiency from the Race Committee meant that 59 races were completed by the end of Saturday. The hours of training at Grafham seemed to be paying off as the Cambridge teams dominated the standings, holding the top 3 spots overnight.
Returning at an unholy hour to Grafham on the Sunday, the organising committee was greeted with thick fog, so despite a steady breeze, no racing was possible until visibility had improved. After a two hour wait in a clubhouse that was notable chilly, racing finally got underway. The breeze filled in, and 52 races were completed. Racing was tight throughout the field, the highlight being a gripping race between Cambridge Purple and Cambridge Blue.
Teams were evenly matched crossing the start line, with Purple pulling ahead to take the first and second positions at the first mark, but with Blue hot on their heels. Blue recovered well on the downwind leg, chasing down Duncan Hampshire & Dave Robertson in second place, and leaving the race finely balanced with Purple in 1, 4 & 5 against Blue in 2, 3 & 6. In the end, Blue’s experience showed, with Hugo Sloper & Cat Wallace successfully converting 6th place into 4th by the finish.
At the end of the day, each team had completed 13 races and the three Cambridge teams had locked out the top 3 positions in the event, with Warwick Black in fourth position, all gaining direct qualification to the Finals. Loughborough Purple, Loughborough Pink, and Birmingham Purple took the next three spots, and will have another chance to qualify at the nationwide Playoffs in Glasgow in three weeks’ time.
Congratulations must go to all 18 Cambridge Sailors for achieving such a fantastic result, and a big thank-you to the organising team of (mostly Cambridge) alumni and students for braving the cold and orchestrating a smooth-running event.
For a full list of results, please go to Qualifiers Event Page.