2011 Varsity Match

2011 - Oxford 129 Cambridge 88

RAF Bicester

Cambridge:  Julia Robson (capt), James Shaw, Fergus Noble

Oxford:  Natasha Spottiswoode (capt), Lukas Brandt

After a number of unsuccessful attempts to organise a Varsity Match we finally met on a typical British summer's day in mid-July.  The forecast was not looking promising for a soaring competition - overcast cloud with occasional light rain, but both teams began the process of getting checked out on Bicester's K-13s.  We cut the required flight times down because of the bad weather - a 10 minute flight would count for scoring purposes, with a maximum flight time of 30 mins.  Even so, by 4pm Cambridge were leading by just 17 points to 12 (with Fergus Noble scoring for Cambridge and Natasha Spottiswoode for Oxford).

Throughout the afternoon we had been tracking a promising patch of sunlight which had slowly been working its way towards us; unfortunately, it looked like it would reach us just as we were packing up.  James Shaw (Cambridge) took off in a K-13 intending to perform a hangar landing, came off the winch and immediately turned into a 2kt thermal and began climbing away.

Lukas Brandt (Oxford) immediately jumped into the other K-13 and launched into a strong thermal.  After climbing to 3,000ft he displayed a mastery of Varsity Match tactics, using his airbrakes to descend quickly in order to maximise the amount of time spent climbing in thermals.  Unfortunately he came unstuck when he was unable to find another thermal, and he was forced to land with a score of 40 points.

At this point Oxford could see James still racking up the points for Cambridge and knew they needed another scoring flight to be in with a chance.  They deployed their home-field advantage, pulling rank to ensure that Natasha Spottiswoode took off in the final flight of the day.  To Cambridge's dismay, she also started climbing away after some initial trouble.

Meanwhile, James landed his flight after 28 minutes in the air, scoring 71 points (bringing Cambridge's total to 88) and setting Oxford a target of 49 from Natasha's flight to win.  At this point it was approaching 6pm and it wasn't clear how long the thermals would continue.  We thought it would be close, but as Natasha continually found thermal after thermal to stay up we realised that the match was slipping away from us.  Just after 6pm she landed after an excellent flight, scoring 89 points and handing Oxford a comprehensive victory.