Here is our take from the world championships held in La Rochelle two weeks ago…
With George Johnson, Conrad Manning (holding the AGPM trophy (rewarding the best crew for the coastal races)), Dan Flanigan, Jamie Diamond, Kate Devereux, Jonty Cook (the only non shippy), Anabel Vose, Richard Burrows (Out of shot)
The Student Yachting Worlds started for the University of Southampton on the Wednesday where chauffeur Saltmarsh gave a number of us a lift to Southampton airport to meet the rest of the team. It was apparent that everyone was struggling slightly due to the lack of food and drink trying to keep the weight down. To distract the stomach from complaining, everyone (par Dan who was in Paris and Burrows who was at work) sat down and played a very civilised game of cards. Clearly some of us are better as a trend of 1, 2 and 3 was quickly established! Once we traversed the very small distance in the bus and boarded the plane everyone could stretch out and assume the Zzz position due to the lack of other travellers. Apon arrival and picking up the hire car, we split into two teams, one who were to take the train to La Rochelle, and the others who would drive down.
Kate and I opted to take the train and with our very sparse French vocab were bundled out at the nearest station. The infrequent train to La Rochelle meant that we had a number of hours to kill… So we spent it being cultured, visiting a castle and a chapel. Meanwhile, the rest of the team were getting acquainted in the warm and cozy car which probably aided in us making the 550kg weight limit.
That evening, once adequately rehydrated we set about satisfying our hunger (and hunting down some British delicacies for ‘International night’) The Japanese were on form with their Soba (noodles) and Sake (rice wine) so were definitely favourites within SYWoC.
The next day was about getting to know the Grand Surprises, that meant an early wakeup to check out the boats and sails that had been provided. I think I speak for many of the teams when I say the boats were exceptionally well cared for, brand new small jib and a still crinkly main supplemented with a rather stretchy primary jib. Keeping in tradition and good luck, we opted to miss the finish line of the practice race planned for the day (it did seem to work for us). That evening was the opening ceremony and on the way Dan and George channeled their inner child to play in the fountains. The ceremony was a big affair with fantastic food (open oyster bar!!) and a number of speeches from important people. Post oysters and speeches, we went to satisfy our leader’s craving for ice-cream (nothing was open as a) it was France, and b) was late evening)
Friday was when racing counted so went down to the boat early splitting the morning roles (food, beverages, morning briefing and boat rigging). With the good winds forecasted the race committee managed to get in two windward/leward races and a longer (13nm) coastal race. We managed to assert some dominance on the event by posting two 1sts and a 2nd. The coastal race win was well earned due to a last minute decision to keep our kite up and gave us just enough power to glide under the crews ahead. We returned to shore and greeted by the familiar face of Richard Burrows who was to take George Johnson’s place for a day.
After the fortunes of Friday, we were lucky enough to have very similar conditions which lead to a very respectable 3 bullets (something Burrows won’t let GJ forget). As the day progressed, the pressure started to fall so we initiated the secret manoeuvre, downstairs yachting. This proved to be very successful when the wind practically died out under the bridge and put us in good stead to take another place around the leeward mark capitalising on someone’s mistake. Although it seemed we didn’t have the speed compared to other boats around us, the team’s focus mean we overtook the remaining boat by the top mark and held onto the lead till the finish.
The skipper went for a morning swim to check her appendage and was promptly handed a sponge to ensure the hull had remained slick and smooth. Everyone was expecting the day to be light and the race officers set off a race as quickly as they could to make sure there were some results from the day. Unfortunately AP had to be raised post race as there was barely a puff of wind. This meant students could be students and within minutes sailors were swimming between boats, diving off the spreaders, using the halyards as rope swings or being typical students and sleeping (the sleeping lasted only until Jonty started snoring and woke everyone up!) The AP/H was then raised so crews could return to shore for lunch and some R&R before it filled back in for one more light wind race.
Although Monday was forecasted for light winds again, there was enough to get a number of races out. Although we did not continue the top 3 positions, we were content in posting top 5 finishes today as our aim was consistently being within the top 5 and focusing on the championships not just individual races.
In contrast to the previous two races, Tuesday was WINDY! With it probably averaging around 20kts, our confident handling of the boat and kite caught the eye of one of the jury who kindly mentioned that we had given a “masterclass in boat handling”. Seeing as a number of other boats struggled to fly their kites, they were banned for the following races. With the wind building, the RO sensibly made the decision to can racing that day, just in time before a very large squall came through. Upon returning to shore, we wanted to settle the rumour that we had won the Worlds with a day in hand. After each checking, double checking and triple checking, we had a small celebration that continued into the night with American slap-up and other games being played.
With heads sore from the night before, everyone knuckled down as there was one more trophy to win. We were proud to end the competition, and probably in the most sportsman like way (instead of sacking racing off), with a 1st and 2nd (to Wales who we stole a 1st from earlier in the comp).
This is the first time that The University of Southampton has ever won
The event started on Friday 17th October 2014 till the Wednesday 22nd October 2014
The team got 9 1st out of 16 races.
Their worst race was 2 5th places.
There were 12 teams from 11 different countries.
France entered two teams, as they were the organisers.
The class was called a Grand Surprise – http://www.archambault-boats.eu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=29&Itemid=86&lang=en
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/SYWoC
Conrad’s updates: https://www.facebook.com/ConradManningRacing
There are links for Yachts and Yachting and Scuttlebutt on Conrad’s Page
Yachts and Yachting and http://www.sailingscuttlebutt.com/ have press releases
BBC recording: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p029lhy3
Conrad Manning – Ship Scientist 4th
Anabel Vose– Ship Scientist 2nd
Dan Flanigan– Ship Scientist Finished MSC
George Johnson– Ship Scientist 4th
Jonty Cook –Economics student Graduated
Richard Burrows– Ship Scientist Graduated
Kate Devereux– Ship Scientist 2nd year
Jamie Diamond– Ship Scientist 2nd Year