The annual Illusion Match Racing Championships took place in Bembridge Harbour over the weekend in almost perfect weather on Saturday and dull & damp conditions on Sunday. Unfortunately unavailability, illness & injury meant that a number of the regular match racers were missing, however after a bit of arm twisting we ended up with 14 competitors who, for Saturday, were split into two groups of seven with a round robin within each group – a total of 42 races. This of course requires split second timing and a well oiled race management team to make it all work, so fortunately we had most of last year’s team available to keep everything on track. In particular a big thanks to the Chief Umpire, David Lees who not only re-wrote the Notice of Race to comply with the World Sailing (ex-ISAF) template but also briefed everyone on the key changes to Appendix C (Match Racing) to the new Racing Rules of Sailing.
The first round of six races went mostly as expected, however after crossing the finishing line well ahead of David Peerless in the first race of the day, Mike Toogood alas found himself disqualified for not taking a penalty at the start. A pity particularly as it transpired that the penalty should have been awarded to David in the first place! Although there were no surprises in the second round, we saw the first race where the Downer family were paired against each other; in this case it was Jo racing against youngest son Alex, with Mum crossing the finish line in front.
In the third flight, Mike Toogood had an excellent race and beat Jo; and in the black group, David Russell-Jones had a good tussle with George Downer and chalked up his second win of the day. Indeed in the fourth flight he went one better and beat Julia Bailey. Julia also had to make do with coming in behind George in the fourth flight, however having had a bye in the fifth flight, she came back to beat the top seed of the Black Group, Mark Downer, in the sixth and final flight The other surprise, which was also in the final flight, was Jo beating the top seed of the Red Group, Bruce Huber.
Once back in the warmth of the Bar, the day’s results showed the top four in the Red Group to be Bruce (5 wins), Jo (4 wins), David Peerless (4 wins) & Alastair Speare-Cole (4 wins) with it only being possible to split David & Alastair up for Sunday’s seeding by the toss of a coin. In the Black Group, the top four were Mark (5 wins), Julia (4 wins), David R-J (4 wins) & George (3 wins), however with David unable to race on Sunday, it was agreed that Mike Toogood would fill the fourth slot.
The best of three race quarter finals on Sunday saw the top of the red & black groups matched against the fourth placed in the opposite group and the seconds against the thirds. All four matches went to 2 straight wins with the only slight surprise being David Peerless who used his match racing experience to out fox Julia. In both sets of best of three race semi-finals (main & plate), it was a similar story with Bruce beating George, Mark beating David, Jo beating Mike Toogood and Julia beating Alastair Speare-Cole, 2-0.
This meant that Bruce & Mark were, as expected, pitted against each other in the best of 5 finals and Julia & Jo in the best of 3 plate finals. In the first race Mark got ahead at the start and although there was not a lot in it, managed to keep Bruce on the back foot to take a 1-0 lead. The second race was also close but once ahead, it was clear that Mark was going to be hard to beat.
In the third race, Bruce got the better start and was just ahead at the first windward mark and on the run down to the leeward mark, it was nip & tuck with Bruce still just ahead. However, as they approached the mark to round it, the calls of protest came came fast & furious with Bruce finding himself having to take a penalty which not surprisingly allowed Mark through to win reasonably comfortably and thus become this winter’s Match Racing Champion. In the plate final, Jo won the first race and Julia the second; by the time they reached the leeward mark in the third and deciding race, Jo was comfortably ahead, however Julia picked up a windshift as they beat back to the final windward mark and with Jo failing to cover she found herself rounding it (much to her surprise) sufficiently far ahead to be able to hold Jo at bay on the final run to the line and therefore win the plate 2-1.
Final Results (Top 8 only)
Winner – Mark Downer
Runner Up – Bruce Huber
3rd = George Downer & David Peerless
Plate Winner – Julia Bailey
Plate Runner Up – Jo Downer
7th – Alastair Speare-Cole & Mike Toogood
Well done to the competitors for some spirited racing over the two days, and many thanks to everyone who helped either on the Committee Boat or in an Umpire RIB.
The next Regatta at Bembridge is for the Valentine Trophy over the weekend of 11th & 12th of February.
Two short YouTube Clips taken during the 3rd race in the Finals