October is not traditionally thought of as a time for the seaside. This October, however, the Oxford University Yacht Club travelled to Le Pouliguen, France to compete in the annual Student Yachting World Cup. Now in its 35th year, this competition is organised by the students of École Polytechnique and features the best teams from teams all around the world. Oxford joined Southampton and Cambridge to represent England against a collection of teams from Europe, America, Asia and Australia.
The first day of racing began in perfect style, bright sunshine and a brisk ten-knot wind welcoming the competitors to the first race. The first set of races made the most of the picturesque bays and inlets which characterise this section of the French coast, with the Swiss team from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne racing to an early lead.
The Oxford crew featured veteran Oliver Glanville at the helm, Josh Bell on trim, Lulu Wallis on bow and Eric Topham on main and navigation. However, fate conspired against the Dark Blues as technical issues prevented them from racing on the fi rst day whilst Southampton and Cambridge solidified their positions at the head of the pack.
The second day saw even more the good weather, with the wind picking up with gusts up to 17 knots. The Swiss and Southampton crews maintained momentum to take second and third place, while the shock of the day was Cambridge cracking under pressure and finishing second to last. The Canadian team from Dalhousie University also surprised, finishing fourth successively and challenging consistently to break the Swiss/ Southampton hegemony. The final inshore race of the day was fiercely contested, with only four minutes separating first and late place.
The final costal race of the day saw Oxford race into a big lead after a fantastic start, but technical problems once again ate away at the advantage and the crew fell from third place at the half-way stage to a disappointing eighth position by the end.
The weather and the high standards of competition had set up the final day of the competition to be tantalisingly close, with the Southampton and Swiss teams leading the way. With strong winds preventing the usage of larger spinnakers, Canada won the first race after dominating from beginning to end. Southampton and the Swiss continued their competition even till the final stretch of the final race, regularly swapping between first and second. Though Southampton would clinch the race, the consistent excellence of the Swiss saw them gain the world title.
Oxford finished in eighth place, a slightly disappointing result, but entirely respectable given the high standards of the international competition. Battling against the best yachtsmen and women from around the world, as well as technical issues and inclement weather, fairer winds await OUYC.