BUSA 2001 Team Racing Championships
Hot favourites in the mixed competition must be Southampton University 1. Last weekend's final of the RYA National Team Racing Championships at West Kirby saw two of their three helms competing in the final - Dom Johnson for GBR1 and Simon Shaw for the eventual winners - Spinnaker Exiles. Together with third helm and ex-captain Owen Modral, the Southampton outfit will be looking to take a title that has eluded them on their last two attempts - losing semi-finalists in both 1999 and 2000.
The title is far from in the bag though and they may well face the nearest challenge from close to home in the form of Southampton University 2nd team who have already beaten them in several BUSA events this season. The strength of sailing at Southampton is unmistakable, but the picture is not bleak elsewhere. Strong contenders for the title must also be London 1 benefiting from their resident fast-boy Mark Campbell-James amongst others.
Last year's winners Cambridge 1, have the advantage of home territory at Grafham Water so are likely to be hard to beat despite losing most of the victorious 2000 team at the end of last season. Cardiff, Oxford and Newcastle rank as among the more likely dark-horses to spring a surprise, as might Exeter or Bristol. However, the problem for many teams in recent weeks has been a lack of training due to foot and mouth - not so for Oxford though who headed for the States and a weeks training in Boston, Massachusetts against Harvard and MIT.
The Scottish Universities, as ever, rank as somewhat of an unknown entity with Strathclyde and Edinburgh both making the long trek, as does a team from Ireland. The draw for the two leagues will be critical in deciding the pattern of the knock-out stage and Southampton 1 and 2 will be hoping to avoid each other in qualification.
In the Ladies competition, Oxford will be out to avenge their defeat in last year's final by the Southampton girls and are likely to start as favourites thanks to some impressive performances in recent events. Birmingham may prove a surprise package, as may one of the northern universities yet to face southern opposition in anger so far this season.
Whatever happens on the water, the 240 students competing can be assured of some suitably large nightlife off it thanks to the impressive sponsorship put in place by Cambridge. With the annual BUSA Ball planned for Wednesday night, the number of dark glasses on show for Thursday morning's semi-finals is inevitably likely to be high.
madforsailing.com will bring you all the action from the championships through from the league stage commencing on Tuesday, to the finals scheduled for Thursday afternoon.