Snakebite 2023: York Sailing secure strong leads in the two day competition


YUSWC compete at a high-level university competition in Nottingham and achieve a top ten position

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Image by David Eberlin, Notts County Sailing Club

By Evie Winter

On 11-12 February 2023, York University Sailing and Windsurfing Club (YUSWC) competed in the annual Snakebite event, hosted by the University of Nottingham. A two day competition, with over 130 sailors across 22 teams, the tournament was comprised of over 90 races. On both days, the conditions were unfavourable, with wind averaging at five to ten knots all weekend, resulting in all but three of York’s races cancelled on the second day - with only the first team having a chance to race on Sunday. Regardless, both York teams raced incredibly well, securing top positions throughout the competition despite testing conditions.

The first day of racing began early at 9am, with York Black (first team) competing in the beginning races of the whole event. This was an important race for settling nerves. York Sailing had lost against many of the university teams racing at this competition only a week prior at the British Universities Sailing Association (BUSA) qualifiers.

The stakes were high for maintaining confidence levels, but York rose to the challenge and secured a safe one-three-four score in their first race. The scoring system for sailing is fairly intuitive - first past the finish line gets one point, second place earns two points and so on. Essentially, you want the lowest score possible - and if your team scores ten or over, you may as well go back to shore and consider a land sport, you’ve lost. However, from this point, YUSWC maintained an incredibly high-level of play, rarely dropping below a one-two or one-three combination throughout the competition.

During the competition, the politics of sailing became apparent: bully, strategize, manoeuvre, but mainly bully. Initially all of this went over my head - sailing is not too much of a spectator sport - but once all the spins, protests and undercutting had been explained and pointed out, the racing became more exciting.

What shocked me was that before the race began there were efforts to manipulate the game. With three minutes to get to the start line before a race official begins, racers manoeuvred their boats to halt others’ from reaching the start in time. Only once did York get caught up in the pregame politics and could not reach the start in enough time.

Helm (Oliver Lewis) and crew (Meg Morris) worked seamlessly as a team tacking and gybing well throughout the racing, avoiding protests from other teams, focussed on clean runs through the course.

In spite of low winds, race captain Richard Townley managed to maintain a high boat speed, helming with efficiency, slicing between boats and often managing to secure first position well ahead of other sailors. York Black (the first team) competed in eight races and won five overall.

Overall, it was a strong performance from both York sailing teams, proving a formidable force in the university league, and I’m sure they will continue to compete at a similarly high level of play in events to come - Roses next!