07:30 and the sun is just coming over the Mendips when the UWE team unlock the gate at Chew Valley and begin to prepare for the BUSA Western Qualifiers. One saving grace is that for the first time in the 3 years UWE has ran the event there is no ice to be seen. However, the forecast is for the wind topping off at 39 knots so perhaps we have other worries.
As the 96 sailors arrive from their respective universities and collect the obligatory bacon buttie the UWE team are frantically searching for the ever elusive cut down, after much searching we eventually located Bristol’s 8 cut downs and the boats were ready to go. Unfortunately the wind did not agree and it was averaging 24 knots with a nasty front due at 12. Jon, our race officer called for us to wait for the front to arrive and thus the racing was delayed. The sailors settled in to table football and table tennis while the event organizers sat in the bar studying meteorological websites. 12 came and went with no sign of the front and so the call was made for the boats to launch.
There was much hesitation from the sailors but three boats eventually launched into the conditions, the wind gauge was reading 20 knots in the club house but it became clear that the boats were fighting against much more than that as one firefly continually capsized and flipped. The remaining 15 boats quickly decided that it was not for them and remained ashore. It seemed that the wind had risen as the lake now looked like a class 4 river rapid! After a discussion with the umpires on the water a decision was made to call the boats back, not as easy as it might seem! With some help from the ribs the three boats returned to shore, sailors fine if a little damp, we played the waiting game again.
Unfortunately by 2pm the decision was made that there would be no sailing today, meaning that everyone could hurry home with the exception of Swansea who had already settled into the bar to watch the rugby. In the race office we crossed our fingers for fairer weather and headed home too.
As the sailors arrived for day two the boats were all lined up and cut downs prepared, UWE were out on the water laying the course and the wind was perfect! Jon had declared that it was unlikely we would achieve our 105 races in one day; I’m not sure what the record for most in a day actually is but it was deemed impossible! So we aimed for 75 in order that everyone had 10 races. The teams were sent out on cutdowns, which was greeted warmly as although it went light in some areas when the gusts hit everyone was thankful of the reduced sail area. With the change over area being a fair distance from the start line the races trudged along but by lunchtime we had 30 completed and were feeling good. The racing was going well and the Bristol teams seemed to be dominating. A few breakages one after the other delayed the racing a bit and the wind had died meaning that the change overs were taking a bit longer, but thankfully they were still ticking over. After 75 we had only one re-sail and the final results were through at 16:50, perhaps a little later than we would normally be allowed on the lake but we had successfully completed an appropriate number of races!
Bristol had two teams qualify (Red winning 100% of their races and White, losing only 3), Exeter Black and Cardiff Black finished with 9 and 8 wins respectively under their belts. The three teams to make it through to the playoffs were; Plymouth Pink, Exeter Blue and Bristol Black. As the clubhouse emptied and the sun began to set UWE set to work dismantling the course and in turn the event. I hope that all the teams had a good weekend and learnt a lot despite the lazy Saturday. Good luck to all those in the qualifiers and playoffs!
So, a successful conclusion to the weekend, many thanks to Alan Coventry and his team (Mike, Mike, Terry & Nick) who spent the previous Wednesday checking & preparing the support boats for use over the weekend.