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By John Harkness
It has been a very successful year for the Oxford University Yacht Club as the racing team took home the Varsity Cup for the fifth time and won its first ever Half-Blues for Yacht Fleet Racing. The Varsity match was part of the Warsash Spring Championship, which took place on the 9th and the 10th of April on the South Coast. A brand new Sunsail First 40 was chartered for the Oxford crew, composed of 9 sailors, both salty sea dogs and beginners, who had spent the previous weekends training hard in the Solent.
On the Saturday morning, Oxford rose early to get on the start line of the training race, only to find that its main opponent was not there. They were found later in the race, sailing in the wrong direction. Unsurprisingly maybe, Oxford sailed ahead of Cambridge for the rest of the day and was well in the lead to win the shiny silver cup by nightfall.
On Sunday, the competition came to a standstill as the wind died down: a fleet of 60 boats was floating around without much purpose around the committee boat waiting for something to happen and while the Oxford crew trimmed their sails to the maximum to try to make way, Cambridge anchored and went for a swim.
However, half way through the day, the wind grew stronger and Cambridge found itself in front of Oxford for the first time of the weekend. But, maybe suffering from the after effects of their swim, the crew did not see the huge oil tanker whose course they were crossing. The oil tanker had to blast its warning siren loudly for Cambridge to realise that a collision was imminent and Cambridge had to sail away from the finish line. Always professional, despite laughing quite hard, the Oxford crew hoisted its spinnaker and took home the victory.
After this successful weekend, 8 of the crew went on to compete in the four-day BUSA Yachting Championships. It is usually won by the South Coast Universities who spend more time on the water than ducks compared to the land-locked Oxford team, but Oxford still managed to finish fifth in one of the races and twelfth overall, thus ensuring the first ever Half-Blues for Yachting.
To support these brave sailors, the OUYC organised a cruising trip, which followed the Varsity race. They also did an amazing trip to Needles on the west end of the Isle of Wight, where they watched the sun rise before heading off to see Oxford cross the finish line in front of Cambridge.
The club is always looking for enthusiastic sailors, whatever their experience: from ocean crossings to inflatable boats on holidays, there is a place for everyone who would like to sing the dreams of the wide-open sea.