Sailing Feb '11_Main

Queen Mary Reservoir

Sailing to success

The University of Exeter Sailing Club has over the past few weekends begun its main series of races in the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) competition, the organisation responsible for inter university sport.

Following November’s early successes at the annual BUCS Fleet Racing Championships, gaining 3 medals including 1 gold and overall team gold, the University’s teams have been competing at the qualifiers for the Match Racing and Team Racing Finals to be held over Easter.

Match racing is a discipline in which each team of 5 sails one small yacht in a very tactical one on one race against another team in an identical yacht.  Success requires a good balance between both control of the boat and racing tactics.

The University sent two teams to the qualifiers held at Queen Mary Reservoir London at the end of January. The first team was skippered by Tim Saxton, a 3rd year History student and also included sports scholars Matt Rainback, a 2nd year medical imaging student and Ben Muskett, a 3rd year flexible combined honours student. The second team was skippered by experienced Bermudan first year student Jason Saints and also included Scholar Mike Wood, a first year Exercise and Sports Science student. 6 out of 9 teams qualified; the University of Exeter 2nd team qualified 5th after narrowly beating Plymouth and the 1st team qualified in 2nd place overall.  

The first team raced Southampton 1, who had lost in a shock upset to Bristol 1, a team which included Exeter alumni Elliott Parsons who was the Sailing Club Captain in 2008/2009. The race was the best of three. Southampton won the first race having picked the faster side of the course on the first lap after an equal start. However, the team rallied together and through aggressive starting tactics and good speed Exeter convincingly won the next two races to take third spot and demote the top seeds to fourth place.

Overall, Southampton Solent went on to win the event. However, the Exeter teams both qualified for the finals, gaining invaluable experience and putting in strong performances along the way. This means that Exeter was the only university from the tougher Southern area qualifier to put two teams through to the finals. With all of the top four having beaten each other at various stages of the event, the first team will approach the event with confidence having put in a medal-winning performance. The second team will also hope to use the experience gained at this event to continue their development.

Roadford Lake on Dartmoor hosted the Western area Team racing qualifiers on the 5th and 6th February. Team racing involves teams of 3 two person dinghies, racing against another 6 person team, with the aim of getting all three of your boats to finish ahead of the oppositions’ boats.

Despite the Western area being one of the toughest regions with only 4 out of 18 teams going directly to the finals, the first team including Tim Saxton and Matt Rainback won all their races to qualify in challenging  weather conditions. The second team finished 4th in their league and qualified them for one of 4 places at the play-offs on the weekend of the  5th and 6th March. The difficult qualifying rounds will give both teams confidence to approach the finals.

The Universities Sailing Club offers competitive and recreational sailing for expert and novice students alike. The club has recently taken delivery of a fleet of 6 new firefly boats, thanks in part to alumni donations and a generous grant from Sport England.

Date: 21 February 2011