A College Regatta Not Soon Forgotten

Published on May 6th, 2014

The Course Croisiére EDHEC Sailing Cup is the biggest intercollegiate offshore regatta in the world, with the 46th edition in Les Sables-d’Olonne, France on April 25 – May 3.

Making the trip from USA was University of Chicago, Drexel University, Tufts (2 teams) and Georgetown. Canada also had two teams: University of Laval and HEC Montréal.

Ken Legler is the coach for Tufts University, and provides this report and photos on the event…

For the 14 Tufts seniors, one coach and one dad, the EDHEC Sailing Cup surpassed all expectations. The wind and waves, the boats and competition, the hospitality and accommodations, the life-long friendships and lessons were all incredible. I trust I am speaking for the students of Georgetown, Drexel and Chicago as well.

Some numbers:
46th annual regatta run by college students except FFV race officials.
175 boats.
88 one-design on outer circle.
87 on the handicap circle closer to shore.
Nearly 1600 sailors from 22 nations and another pile of students playing games ashore.
Parties with world class bands, an Old El Paso Mexican dinner, and a big marquee with lots of flashy lights and electronica music. Each team also got a full shopping cart of pasta and other “necessities.” Use your imagination.

Some random thoughts:
This was a student run event with many EDHEC students seemingly working 24/7 to pull it off. Their event website is more about promotion than straight info; as such the NOR was found on their Facebook site and scores? The positives far out-weighed those minor issues. The regatta village was amazing and the excitement was at a fever pitch throughout. Our chartered J-80 was in good condition but our Grand Surprise 32 was immaculate with brand new sails. There is no athletic department money for these Euro college sailors; they all raise money the old-fashioned way: through corporate sponsorship. There is no NCAA but there is public safety ashore and a healthy respect for the elements at sea. The French know ocean racing.

You can try to find scores via live.ccedhec.com but it hasn’t yet worked after Thursday’s race. However, this event is not about the winners though I can tell you the pros dominated the Grand Surprise class except that the Swiss students were awesome. The French won all the other classes, as well as the games ashore.

Event schedule:

Saturday, April 26: Boat prep as Tufts team trickles in including three that just completed the Boston Marathon.

Sunday, April 27: Training day blown out. Even the regatta village is evacuated for fear of tents blowing over, and there were more than 60 tents. A good day to study.

Monday, April 28: Morning postponement for waves to subside, one afternoon race for each class. Our one-design circle has three classes; a professionally laden 40-boat Grand Surprise 32 fleet, a nearly all student 38-boat J-80 fleet, and a mostly student fleet of ten Longtzes. Longtzes are similar to Vipers only taller, faster and sexier. Tufts enters both a GS 32 and a J-80. Drexel is also in the Grand Surprise, Georgetown and Chicago are in J-80s. Tufts sails short-handed as the remaining five sailors arrive Monday evening following college New England’s at Yale over the weekend.

Tuesday, April 29: More wind and waves. Tufts Will Haeger in the GS 32 aces one start and team makes only a few errors to get on track. Georgetown’s men, skippered by John Labossiere, also finds a good pace in the J-80. Tufts J-80, four women and a guy, are still a bit nervous in the 1-3 meter seas but finish steady mid-fleet. Somehow they avoid collisions all around them; mostly by targeting a one or two-length overstand at every weather mark. Drexel and Chicago have less experience but show great seamanship and sportsmanship finishing every race despite minor breakdowns.

Wednesday, April 30: The light air day, 8 knots building to 13, still pretty lumpy. It’s the North Atlantic in April. Haeger aces two more starts before the pros take the pin away and with minor mistakes, Tufts posts a 2-4-13 on the day.

Thursday, May Day in France: The Grand Surprises go long coastal following one more W-2 and Tufts has trouble understanding the course despite having one French speaking student on each boat. What a picturesque race this is! J-80s keep racing on W-2’s. The Longtzes start with the J-80s throughout and the well sailed ones not only pull away from the J’s but catch the tail end Grand Surprises downwind, which is not surprising when you see them.

Friday, May 2: Tufts GS gets another 6th but gets holed and misses two races. Georgetown continues to sail well finishing in top ten almost every race. Tufts gets redress to finish 6th, as does G’town in J’s.

Saturday, May 3, the Finals: Fifteen finalists get to compete in the “GANT” (nice apparel company) final in GS 32, with top competitors selected from each of six classes. Switzerland, the top student and top international boat opts for the GANT final, along with slick corporate boats Altran, KPMG and Total, all with pro skippers. G’town also gets an invite to this “pro” final and grabs two Tufts ladies to fill out a crew for this bigger boat. Tufts GS team gets an invite to the all-student final in Longtzes; what a treat!

Our luck is not great here; we draw the old Longtze which breaks a mainsheet system right after the start of the second race. We win the first race despite missing the first lifting puff off the line. We pick the shifts to take the lead before get a bit conservative covering. Our match racing experience comes in handy on the downwind finish to nip the French students representing the Longtze class. Meanwhile Georgetown has little luck against the pros and Swiss students in the GS class and gets 10th of 15. Even the highly prepared and skilled Swiss students get the wrong end of a three-way tie for second with a 3-3.

In the final student race in Longtzes, David Liebenberg jury rigs a mainsheet and Tufts grinds through to finish right behind the French. More bad news, AP over A is flying and the series is over as the French win the tie with a 2-1. No matter, this is not a championship but one of the greatest regatta experiences these college seniors will ever have.

Tremendous thanks to the EDHEC team, particularly Thomas Gazeau and our hosts in the international tent, Nicholas, Marion, Charlotte and Maille. Thanks also to all our supporters, mostly parents but our alumni friends and Tufts Athletics as well.

Will we go back? For sure yes, but not sure when. Without corporate sponsorship (we follow NCAA rules), we will need to start new momentum when we can somehow get another class like our seniors of ’14. And it will be worth every hour and Euro. This was one regatta none of us will soon forget.

Au revoir, Ken Legler, Tufts Sailing Coach

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