Bembridge Illusions – National Championships 6th & 7th November 2021


We were locked down earlier in the year when the 2020-2021 Nationals had originally been programmed, so rather than not hold them at all, the decision was made to hold them over the weekend of 6th & 7th November.

Forecasts earlier in the week had not been brilliant, however it began to look more promising as the week went by and conditions on Saturday were almost perfect with a WSW F4 gusting occasionally F5 breeze.

With BHYC’s leg of the Island Youth Laser and Tera series also re-programmed for Saturday it was decided to leave them to race outside the harbour and to keep the Illusions in the harbour; a bit tight at the start for the thirty three entries but as it turned out, a good long course up and down the harbour was able to be set.

The first start had a fairly short line as it was known that the dredging barge would be exiting the habour around high tide so the Committee Boat needed to keep well clear of the channel.


It was quite a surprise therefore that everyone held back a foot or so and only one boat needed to be given the benefit of doubt!

Start of Race 1 –

The main fleet remained on starboard until they reached the edge of Selwyn Pontoon and then cries of ’room to tack’ could be head across the harbour. Sadly for Ed Peel an incident at the start put paid to his weekend racing and he limped back to the Illusion Quay.

Bruce Huber lead the way ahead of Raymond Simonds with Mark Downer and Graham Sunderland close behind. Mark moved to the front during the second round and Jack Grogan and Jo Downer lead the chasing fleet after Graham retired with broken steering. Caroline Simonds had an excellent race and came in fifth ahead of Monty Irwin.

With the departure of the dredging barge towards the end of the first race, the line was extended for races two and three. Sticking with the P Flag as the preparatory, again the fleet behaved themselves and again only one boat (different from the first race) needed to be given the benefit of doubt!

Start of Race 2 –

Mark was first round the windward mark with Nigel Grogan, Jo Downer and Jack close behind. Jack moved ahead on the beat through the line to finish the first round and then managed to hold off his father’s, Jo and Mark’s attempts to overtake. Although he was unable to stop a father and son, one/two, much to Mark’s relief he just squeezed Jo out to finish inches ahead in third. As always lower down the fleet there was some very close racing with Monty Irwin and Mike Issiais tying in tenth place and Alastair Speare-Cole and Caroline Simonds tying in thirteenth.

The third and final race of the day, again under the P Flag got away first time and with no one needing the benefit of doubt! Mark was first round the windward mark with Jack, Bruce, Colin Simonds and Simon Child in hot pursuit.

Start of Race 3 –

By completion of the second round, Mark and Jack had established a substantial lead and effectively match raced to the finish. Bruce was third, Raymond was fourth and Simon was fifth.

Three excellent races with Mark coming out best on five points to Jack’s six points.

The forecasted strong overnight winds did not materialise and conditions on Sunday morning for racing outside the harbour looked promising. The decision was therefore made to head outside the harbour to allow for a longer course; however, it was quite choppy and there was a bit of a northerly swell. Nevertheless the standard course was set up with the windward marks opposite the Bay Watch Cafe. The fleet were well behaved and got away with clean start; Mike Toogood right down at the pin was OCS but with the wind strength increasing to 18 knots it was decided by the Race Officers that it was safest to let him continue. As it turned out it did not matter as he subsequently retired after filling up as he crossed the line at the end of the second round!

Start of Race 4 (Sunday) –

Jack Grogan lead the way with Mark Downer and Bruce Huber close behind. As the three round race developed and the breeze moved upwards to around 20 knots, a number of boats broached on the run to the leeward gate. Although there was lots of pumping, fortunately no one filled up completely and the not quite so brave sensibly decided not to fly their spinnakers on the second and third rounds. Despite his best efforts to stave off the relentless pressure from Bruce, Jack had to satisfied with coming second just ahead Mark.


Rather than risk the breeze and the sea state building and racing having to be abandoned, the decision was made to move the course back into the harbour. Although obviously sea conditions were much smoother, the course length was more restricted and called for four round races for the final two races. The start of the fifth race under Flag P was looking promising until a group of boats blocked the Race Officer’s view of the line necessitating a General Recall.

First Start of Race 5 (Sunday) –

The second start (under 

Flag U) was a good one and it was not long before Jack lead the fleet round the windward mark with Raymond Simonds, Nigel Grogan, Mark and Alasatair Speare-Cole in hot pursuit. The second round saw Jack and Raymond enjoying close racing but in the third, Jack was able to establish an unbeatable lead with Mark taking third ahead of Bruce with Simon Childs not far behind.


Second start of Race 5 (Sunday) –

The sixth and final race was always going to be close with the final result hinging on the order they finished. Started again under Flag U, it was Jack’s lime green spinnaker that was the first to fly after the spreader mark.

Start of Race 6 (Sunday) –

Mark’s grey one was next just ahead of a similar grey one flown by Simon. Over the second round Bruce moved up to third and it was looking as if that was going to be the finishing order, however Bruce got the breaks and took over the lead on the fourth and final round. On the short final leg from the leeward gate to the line it was nip and tuck between Mark and Jack; indeed it was so close that they could not be split as they crossed the line and so were scored a tie. As always some close racing lower down the fleet but no other ties.

An excellent turnout with lots of close racing; congratulations to Jack Grogan who finished two points ahead of Mark Downer, who was one point ahead of Bruce Huber. Jack also won the Visitors prize. Despite having to sail with her foot carefully waterproofed, Jo Downer was fourth and the the first lady helm. Raymond Simonds was first over 65, Robin Ebsworth the first over 80 helm and John Birchenough the most improved from the last Nationals.

No racing next weekend as the tides are wrong. The weekend after its the annual Team Racing!

More photos:

Photos and videos courtesy of Mike Samuelson

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