It only took us two years of organisation, twelve hours of travelling, and upwards of a thousand of the finest Scottish pounds, but finally Glasgow (with special guest stars Amy Forbes and Niall Ferguson) were on our way to IUSA Varsities in Schull.
At least nobody had to saw off their arm
We set out for the airport at a ludicrously early 3:30AM, for an event that wasn’t scheduled to begin for over 24 hours. Loch Ore, all is forgiven! We passed the time telling Emily useful facts to make her stay in Ireland go smoothly, and by the time we reached Chateau Collings in Dublin, she was already an expert in the time difference, the special plug adaptors, and the big shed on the border where you have to change over to driving on the right.
We fuelled up for the 5-hour drive to West Cork with a cooked breakfast, and while I drove, the rest of the team made themselves busy playing a frenetic game of trivial pursuit, which naturally caused them to become spectacularly drunk by the time we had reached the midlands. After our arrival at the holiday house that was to be our home for the next four days, delayed by several toilet stops, we were ready to have a sit-down dinner with our new housemates, Queen’s University Belfast, while Andy went down to the shop to restock on alcohol, disguising the reason for his visit with the cunning purchase of a single onion.
Andy loves car journeys
The night ended relatively early, partly due to the fact that nobody was talking to each other after reading the team profiles, and partly because the Gardaí arrived and shut down the pub we were drinking in.
We were first up against Trinity 1 the next morning, and arrived at the club bright and early, spurred on by the promised fines if we were any later than 9:15 getting rigged, and with typical IUSA efficiency, were launched straight into our first race at half past twelve in a building breeze. The lack of visual signals from the start boat proved confusing, but we overcame this to claim a solid 3-5-6 off the line. Niall and myself managed to roll into the two and then somehow contrive to cause the 5 to capsize on top of Emily, leaving us with a 2-4-5 on the top reach. Unfortunately, the Irish sailors in the 1 executed a perfect trap, and we, underestimating the tide, clipped the buoy with our transom, being forced to spin, and dropping to the 5. The day only became worse when Emily capsized in a powerful gust at mark 3, and not even a screaming bottom reach could redress the balance. Not an ideal start, and there was no chance to immediately bounce back, as racing was canned in a flurry of broken rudders just a few short races later.
This is almost a picture of us sailing
This was disappointing, but it did leave us time to go on an adventure to Mizen Head, the most southerly point in Ireland, and soon to be the site of the most southerly press-ups and the most southerly lesbian kiss as well, before heading back to Schull for the first themed night of the event, twelve Scottish pandas descending on Ballydehob for a night of sing-songs, doorbells, dancing, and yet more girls in the boys’ toilets, which is catching on at an alarming rate.
The most southerly lesbian kiss in Ireland
Racing the next day was once again slow to get started, but once it had, Glasgow performed strongly. A 1-5-6 off the line against Loughborough was converted into a 2-3-4 after Niall and I managed to cause carnage at the windward mark and deal out spins to two of the English boats, and we managed to hold a winning combination all the way to the finish in spite of strong pressure from the 1, eventually cracking their resistance and finishing 1-2-4. In the second race, against one of UCD’s 6 teams, it was Emily’s turn to take on the mantle of leading the fleet round in a 1-5-6, and she did her job perfectly, compressing until Andy and I were able to strike, and finish in another 1-2-4.
Me and Niall between races
The breeze continued to build, as it had on the Thursday, and Glasgow began to struggle against the Irish sailors, who were fitter, stronger, and clearly more used to the increasingly lumpy conditions on Schull harbour than we were, and we were well beaten in both of our next races, in spite of Emily’s best attempts at recreating her 1-5-6 heroics against eventual winners UCC1, not helped at all by me dropping the tiller and nearly taking out Andy less than 30 seconds after the start. Glasgow finished the second day of the event with 2 wins from 5 races.
The third social rolled around, and you would be forgiven for thinking that the relentless pace was going to take its toll on the sailors. Glasgow are made of stern stuff, however, and along with perennial partners in crime SUSA 1 and QUB, we were off to Skibbereen, dressed as Indians, after some of us had taken a brief detour to the inside of a cupboard. This was to be the night when IUSA, and the general public of West Cork, were introduced to the licking game in all its glory. This didn’t win Glasgow many friends, but at least we didn’t have anybody nearly get arrested, which is more than can be said for the SUSA team, Helen having a bizarre and inexplicable run-in with a Garda who seemed to want her to stand in two completely different places at once.
The next day, pressed for time, the organisers decided to can the remainder of the round robin, and use the results up until that point to rank the teams for a best-of 3 last 16 knockout. Glasgow were paired against UCD 4 for this round, a strong team whose number belied the fact that Laser U19 World Champion Finn Lynch was one of their helms. After a close first race, which Glasgow led up until mark 4, we were hopeful of advancing to the quarter finals, but a poor start in the crucial second race put paid to that idea, and we dropped into a silver repechage competition, while our opponents advanced to quarter finals.
The end of the event was fast approaching, and our opponents in the silver quarter final were Trinity 2. After an intense team race in which the lead changed multiple times, eventually Glasgow were undone by a coming-together of boats at mark 4, the umpire call going against us, and resulting in a 1-4-6 loss. The next race was looking grim, Glasgow in a 3-4-6 at mark 4, but with a combination of some Andy McKeown magic and Niall and I finding an improbably clear lane up the last beat, we managed to turn this into a 2-3-5 and tie the match. The final race of the day started in confusion, with Niall and I not realising we were in sequence until 40 seconds to go, then still managing to be well over the start line when the gun went. Our two team mates fared far better, however, and the final result was a 1-3-6. As it turned out, the silver fleet was canned after this race, due to the time constraints, and this left Glasgow in 9th place out of 28 teams, a final result of which the team can be proud, and which is sure to boost our confidence heading into SSS Champs and BUSA Finals.
The only thing that remained was the infamous IUSA Ball in Bantry. The rugby scores notwithstanding, the two Scottish teams were in a buoyant mood, reflected in the effect the gale-force winds had on our kilts. However, it soon emerged that SUSA rules for meals are so-called for a reason, our subtle cutlery relocation exploits are not well-received outside of Scotland. Nonetheless, we managed to keep all of our team members until the lovely lady competition, where Amy was cruelly denied victory by an utterly shocking umpire call, our red flags and cries of “SUSA” falling upon deaf ears, as the award went to a girl from Cork in highly dubious circumstances.
The only appropriate response was set up a ceilidh at the side of the dance floor, and strip the willow for two solid hours, swishing our kilts and flinging our womenfolk until the Irish were green with envy. The antics continued until almost three o’clock, when, followed by a trail of Emily Smith’s blood, we boarded the bus back to Schull and a hard-earned sleep.
A massive thank you to all of the people who helped make this one of the most fun events we have all ever been to, and especially to my team. Emily Robertson, who contracted rabies from a puppy we found, Niall, who provided a constant stream of advice, not just during races, but for the entire 120 hours we were in Ireland, Andy, who didn’t mind losing an eyebrow, Amy, who will do pretty much anything to keep hers, and Smith, who spent over six million pounds to come to the event and get a black eye and glass in her foot. It’s been an absolute pleasure.
Next event for Glasgow is in just under two weeks’ time when two teams travel to BUSA Ladies’ in Southampton, and another takes part in the Big Lash at West Kirby. Until then amigos!