Two beautiful sunny days with just enough wind to make for some testing racing for this year’s re-scheduled Bembridge Illusion Christmas Cracker over the last couple of days. With Wednesday’s light SE breeze forecast to get up slightly, it was decided to keep racing in the harbour for the twelve Illusionists who had got up early for the first start at 09:30; in the event a good decision as by the end of racing the sea conditions outside look distinctly unsuitable for Illusions!
After a short postponement, the first race got away to a clean start; Mark Downer was already well ahead by the first windward mark and never looked under any pressure as he extended his lead over the 3 rounds. Raymond Simonds was initially at the front of the chasing pack, however on the second round Bruce Huber & James Meaning took over and finished second & third. Lower down the fleet Guy Mattinson & Jo Downer were so close that they ended up tying for seventh place.
It was almost a General Recall at the start of the second race however with Mark, Bruce & James all realising that they were OCS and going back, the field was opened right up. Alastair Speare-Cole was first round the windward mark hotly pursued by Alex Downer, Rosie Gosling & Raymond. On the second round Rosie managed to just get ahead of Alastair, however a bad spinnaker drop at the leeward gate put paid to her moment of glory. Raymond meanwhile took over the lead and finished well ahead of Alastair with Mark managing to take third just ahead of young Alex.
It was another very close start for the final race of the day. Having been match racing mid-fleet with Bruce in the previous race, James was well ahead at the windward mark with Bruce & Jo never far apart as they went into the second round. With the finish line moved up the windward mark so as to give three and a half rounds, James was clearly not going to be caught even by the combined efforts of Bruce, Mark & Raymond who all finished pretty close together. After a promising first half, unfortunately Jo had a problem with the spreader and had to come back so finished well down the fleet.
The harbour was like a mill pond on Sunday morning, so the sixteen Illusions headed out of the harbour where there just enough of a SSE’rly breeze to get racing underway. With a 30 degree windshift in the closing seconds of the start sequence for the first race, it was no great surprise to see the General Recall flag displayed, however the second start was better with only Mike Toogood & David Peerless having to come back. Bruce was first to round the windward mark and it was good to see Alastair just ahead of Mark. On the second round Bruce was able to build on his lead, however behind him places were being won & lost as the wind shifts came through. Mark & Jo were probably the most effected with Jo climbing the ladders into third place & Mark sliding down the snakes into fifth place.
The second race of the day got away to an excellent start with the front line of boats all within inches of the line. Bruce was again first to hit the lead with Alastair & Mark close behind and Jo, James & Raymond in hot pursuit. The second round saw equally close racing and although they were unable to catch Bruce, Mark & Alastair finished within inches of each other as did James, Raymond & Jo. Although rarely getting mentioned, the mid to lower end of the fleet also enjoyed some close racing with Rosie Gosling, Will & Mike Toogood finishing within seconds of each other.
At around 7 knots the breeze was sufficient to keep the boats moving through the increasing swell, however keeping the boat moving for the third & final race, called for lots on concentration. Mark & Bruce had a great start, but possibly because they ended up match racing for most of the race, James became the unchallenged leader with Alastair managing to ease himself into second and Raymond just picking up a third after Mark got caught on the wrong side of at least two windshifts. Lower down the fleet it was good to see Hugh Doherty who was only out for the last two races come in tenth – his best position so far this season.
Congratulations therefore to Bruce Huber who won the Christmas Cracker Trophy (a lovely model Illusion); also to Mark Downer who was second and James Meaning who was third on count back with Alastair Speare-Cole fourth.
Racing tomorrow (Friday) & Saturday (30th & 31st December) will be for the oldest Illusion Class trophy, the Icebreaker.
Start of the 1st race on Wednesday
Start of the 2nd race on Wednesday
Start of the 3rd race on Wednesday
Start of the 1st Race on Thursday
Start of the final Race on Thursday