Bembridge Illusions – Bill’s Barrel 2020 (14th & 15th March)

Bill’s Barrel’ was set up some years ago by Bill Daniels as something a bit different from the norm; and this year’s special NoR was one of his best! And of course thank you to Goddard’s Brewery for their support with the prizes.


Rule 1 set the scene ‘Following BREXIT, this will be the last Bill’s Barrel regatta to be held under the multiple and complicated European Union Rules and Regulations. The European Race Committee and competitors will follow EU regulations at all times, including in the clubhouse, where the Pound Sterling remains legal tender at the bar.

Rule 9 ‘(the IMAGINARY EUROPEAN RULE), the European Race Committee may add a rule nine at any time during the regatta, without prior notice or discussion, just like in the EU.

And Rule No. 12. HEALTH & SAFETY: ‘In view of the Chinese Coronavirus affecting our EU friends in Italy, competitors will be required to self-isolate on their one-design yachts during the regatta competition’ was particularly apposite.

Although there were more entries last year, it was good to see under the circumstances that there were 12 keen Illusionists on Saturday raring to go. After a short postponement to allow them all to reach the start area half way up the harbour in the gusty 20 knot South Westerly breeze, the first race got off to a clean start and it was not long before Mark Downer was in the lead; mind you he was told by the ‘European Race Committee’ to take a penalty turn as he had overtaken his wife!


Start of Race 1 –

While Mike in the safety RIB dashed off to the entrance of the harbour to tow a yacht off the lee shore at the entrance to the harbour, it did not take Mark long to get back into the lead ahead of Jo and Bill with Alastair Speare-Cole and Rory Morrison not far behind.

Prior to the start of the second race, ‘Bill’s Barrel’ (or at least a blue drum representing it) was placed well down wind and was used as the first mark, which of course required a running start, not something that Illusions are used to!


Start of Race 2 –

Perhaps not surprisingly Mark was the first to get his spinnaker flying and it was not long before he had established an unbeatable lead ahead of Rory Morrison, Hugh Doherty and Jo. The second and third rounds, which reverted back to using the leeward gate, saw plenty of close racing even if it did not affect the order they crossed the finish line. The third race had another running start and just to mix it up even more, U was used as the preparatory flag. In the event, no one transgressed and it was not long before Mark was again out in front.

Start of Race 3 –


Although never close enough to put him under any pressure, Alastair established himself in a secure 2nd place ahead of Jo (who got ahead of Bill & Rory on a fairly dubious call on the pin as they started the second round). Robin Ebsworth was fourth.

For the fourth and final race of the day the start went back to a conventional one, however with starboard rounding of the windward marks and ‘Bill’s Barrel’ after two rounds using the leeward gate.




Start of Race 4 –

Mark again led the way with Rory, Alastair, Bill and Jo vying for the top end positions, however, on the second beat Alastair began to fill up (turned out to be a split in his rear quarter following a collision in an earlier race) and had to be bailed out by Mike in the safety RIB.

Sunday’s forecast was for the breeze to decrease and for heavy rain as the afternoon progressed; fortunately it was right for the breeze and wrong for the rain! Two new entries and two no shows from the previous day meant that there were still 12 boats out racing. The first race of the day (a conventional 3 round race) got away to a clean start in the SSW’erly F5 (20 knots) breeze. Mark demonstrated perfect timing to cross the line with inches to spare.


Start of Race 5 –

He was well ahead of Alastair (who had stuck some tape over the split in his hull) at the start of the second round with Hugh, Jo, Owen Pay and Bill all in hot pursuit. Alastair did well to stop Mark extending his lead further on the third round, and to keep the others at bay. Third to fifth all finished within seconds of each other.

The breeze had dropped to around 10 knots for the start of the sixth race which had a conventional start but ‘Bill’s Barrel’ as the leeward mark. Bill was inch perfect and unusually Mark was a bit off the pace.


Start of Race 6 –

Alastair led initially but on the second long beat, Bill overtook him, however having left his spinnaker ashore he was unable to hold off Mark who won yet again.

The seventh and final race started downwind but with spinnakers banned for the first leg to ‘Bill’s Barrel’.

Start of Race 7 –

Bill and Jo choose the right side of the course for the long beat back to the windward marks and it paid off handsomely and put them ahead of Mark, however he managed to get ahead on the run back down to ‘Bill’s Barrel’. Undaunted, they both made up ground on the next two beats; indeed Bill ended up being so far ahead that it did not matter that he was spinnakerless for the runs. Jo kept ahead of Mark to take second.

On the face of it, Mark looked to be the overall winner, however under Rule 9 in the NoR, the Race Committee decided that he should be disqualified in the first of Saturday’s races and docked 2 places in the final race which put him level with Jo on points. As Rule 11 awarded double points in the final race and an extra point for scoring more in the Brexit quiz, this meant that Jo won this year’s ‘Bill’s Barrel’! Bill was third.

An excellent two days of ‘fun racing’ – again thanks to Bill for organising and to Goddard’s Brewery for supporting the prizes.

Next weekend is the Spring Plate and the weekend after is the Nationals. Lets hope that we are able to run them.






Photos courtesy of Mike Samuelson

Additional photos:

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