Not quite as good a turn out for this year’s Christmas Cracker as last year, but with Omicron on the rampage and at least one regular stuck abroad (David P in Val d’Isere), one injured (Jo D with a sore shoulder), and a few others committed elsewhere, it certainly could have been worse!

The easterly F4 breeze on Saturday and an empty harbour allowed the Race Officers to set a good long course for the 14 boats racing. After a clean start the majority stayed on starboard and headed over to the St Helens shore.

Start of Race 1 –

By the time he reached the windward mark, Mark Downer had developed a healthy lead and there was little that Bruce Huber, Alastair Speare-Cole and the chasing fleet could do to rein him in. On the second round further gaps appeared and except for 5th (Philip Russell), 6th (Mike Toogood) and 7th (Mike Issaias) who all finished within second of each other, the fleet finished pretty spread out.

The second race started with a General Recall when there were just too many boats over the line. The re-start, under Flag U, went better and using the same tactics as the first race, Mark was again the comfortable leader at the windward mark.

Start of Race 2 (General Recall) –

Re-Start of Race 2 –

Despite finding himself trapped at the pin end of the line at the start, Bruce made up a lot of ground and was back in second place by the time he reached the windward mark ahead of Philip and Colin Simonds.  Although no one actually broached on the run, one or two boats got quite close as the breeze picked up slightly. On the second round, Philip secured his third place, leaving Colin, Oliver Morgan and Mike Toogood to battle it out for the next three places.

Leeward Mark rounding Race 2 (1) –

Leeward Mark rounding Race 2 (2) –

The final race of the day was again started under the U Flag; mind you, you could hardly tell it with a number of boats at the pin end risking all! A couple were a bit lucky and were given the benefit of doubt!

Start of Race 3 –

A similar pattern to the first two races emerged when Mark’s grey spinnaker was a comfortable first to show as they began the long run back to the leeward gate. Indeed, although Bruce’s lime spinnaker was next to show, Mark was sufficiently far ahead that three straight wins looked inevitable. With Sea Breeze moving up to the windward mark to finish the race after two and a half rounds, the top three (Mark, Bruce and Colin) were sufficiently well spaced out to allow them to just do their own thing. However, it was another matter for the chasing group (Philip, Monty Irwin, Alastair, Hugh Doherty, Mike Toogood and Justin Biddle) who finished very close together.

Although a bit more northerly and certainly more fickle, the breeze was roughly from the same direction as the previous day but never got above 10 knots. After a short postponement as launching had been delayed waiting for the tide to make, the first race got away to a clean start in 5 knots and 20 degree shifts!

Start of Race 4 –

Bruce was first round the windward mark but then slowed with a minor issue which let Mike T through into the lead and Mark & Colin to close the gap. On the second round Mark moved into the lead with Colin taking second. Bruce was third and Mike was fourth.

With the breeze becoming more northerly, the course was re-set (Sea Breeze moved a hundred metres or so the South East) before the start of the second race. Although there was possibly another white hull over the line at the start, only Bruce and Mike T were identified. Both corrected themselves and set off in pursuit of the rest of the fleet with visibility dropping as the mist rolled in through the harbour entrance.

Start of Race 5 –

Justin Biddle, who had been delayed launching so had not been in the previous race, initially lead the way but was overtaken by Mark during the second round and it was good to see Owen Pay move into third place ahead of Colin & Bruce.

The third and final race of the day saw a clean start (perhaps helped by Mike T starting at he Committee Boat end of the line!) and although difficult to see in the reduced visibility, Colin was first round the windward mark just ahead of Justin.

Start of Race 6 –

The run to the leeward gate saw Bruce move into second but as the race played out and Sea Breeze moved up to the windward mark to finish the race after two and a half rounds, Justin found the better route and moved back into second. Bruce was all set to take third but was beaten to the line by less than a second by Mark.

With five wins and a discard of a third in the last race, the Christmas Cracker was well and truly ‘pulled’ by Mark with 5 points; Bruce was the runner up with 13 points and Colin was third with 14 points.

In theory the next Regatta is for the oldest Illusion trophy, the Icebreaker, which is programmed for Saturday & Sunday 1st/2nd January but no one is holding their breath! Fingers crossed though.

Additional photos:

Write up and photos courtesy of Mike Samuelson


























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