Unlike the previous day (Good Friday) when it rained not stop for all the five races to complete the Nationals, the rain held off for the second oldest Regatta in the Bembridge Illusion season, Vernon’s Easter Egg Cup, which had, unusually, been compressed into one day on Easter Saturday.

With a NW’erly F3 breeze forecast, the decision to set the course up outside the harbour off Silver Beach worked out pretty well for the fleet of 18 Illusions once they had stemmed the spring tide as they left the harbour.  With the breeze rarely holding true for long, there was an element of luck in each of the 6 races that were completed.

After a short postponement, the first race got away to a clean start with Mark Downer crossing the line at the pin end less than a second after the start.  However Bruce Huber was just ahead round the windward mark with the father and son boats of Nigel & Jack Groggan not far behind.  Bruce and Mark were neck and neck for the rest of the race with Bruce crossing the line less than half a boat length in front.  Jack was third ahead of Raymond Simonds.  Lower down the fleet, Justin Biddle and Jo Downer had a very close race with inches separating them at the finish.  Although he hea31Mar18 - ptr1ded back to the harbour after just one race it was great to see Piers Thomas back racing in a loaner boat particularly as he had his young daughter crewing!

Race 2 got away to another pretty impressive start, albeit Justin and Jack nearly over cooked it and were only inches away from being called OCS.   Raymond was first at the windward mark with Bruce and Justin close behind.  With, the occasional 20 degree windshift to contend with, choosing the right side of the course was paramount.  Bruce31Mar18 - jgr1 selected well and finished ahead of Raymond and Justin.

Although Mark timed his run the line at the pin end on port tack perfectly, unusually the rest of the fleet appeared to be playing safe and were at least a foot behind the line at the start.  Bill Daniels was first round the windward mark but then had a few spinnaker issues so was overtaken by Bruce and Mark on the run to the leeward gate.  Having chosen the better gate mark on the first round, Bruce got it wrong on the second and Mark took first place.  Young Alex Downer had a great second round and came in third ahead of Alastair Speare-Cole.

Flush with success, Alex looked as if he had badly mistimed the start of the fourth race, but in the event somehow managed to slot into the middle of the fleet without fouling anybody.  This left Richard Ambler as the only other boat who was called OCS to came back.  Nigel was first to the windward mark, with Bruce and Raymond breathing down his neck.  Unusually Mark was mid-fleet just behind Jo!  Raymond chose well and established an unbeatable lead, and with Nigel slowed by problems with his spinnaker, he had to grit his teeth as both Justin and Mark overtook him on the final short leg to the finish.

It was another excellent start to the fifth  31Mar18 - jgr4 race; Jack was first to the windward mark, with Bruce, Mark, Raymond and Justin a few boat lengths behind.  Despite it looking as if he might be overtaken on the first run, he held his nerve and ended up the clear winner ahead of Justin and Raymond.  Although inevitably the write-ups tend to concentrate on the leaders, racing lower down the fleet is always just as keen.  Indeed 9th to 14th places in this race all finished within seconds of each other.

With the drizzle just holding off, the start of the sixth and final race got away to probably the best start of the day and yet again demonstrated the amazingly high quality racing enjoyed by the Illusion fleet.  Raymond’s red spinnaker was the first to go up as they headed back towards the leeward gate; close behind him were Mark, Jack, Bruce, Justin and Nigel, however as they settled down it became a two boat race between Raymond and Bruce with the later winning out in the final stages of the race.  Justin was third and Mark was fourth.   Lower down the fleet, Rosie Gosling and Andy Christie were so close that they shared equal twelfth

An excellent day’s racing and a well deserved win for Bruce; Raymond was second and Mark was third.

Normal (i.e no prize) racing on Easter Day; the Stratton Memorial Regatta is on Saturday & Sunday 14th – 15th April at 10:00 & 10:30 respectively.

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