Fortunately the windy and damp forecast earlier in the week did not put off the twenty four hardy Illusionists entered for this season’s National Championships held over the weekend in Bembridge.18Mar17 - bh_mdr3


Having initially thought that it might have been better to set the course in the lee of Silver Beach to get better protection from the F5 WSW’erly, it was decided in the end to keep racing in the harbour.  As a result  there was a delay in getting the first race away on time as there was not enough water to cover the sandbank in the middle of the harbour.  So many boats obviously required a longer than usual line and with the wind initially flicking 15 + degrees, the first attempt to start was a bit of a disaster and ended with a General Recall.  Despite adjusting the pin by at least three boat lengths, the second attempt was not much better and required the First Sub to be displayed again.  With a more radical adjustment to the pin and the Black Flag brought into play, the third start was a success and the fleet soon spread out as they headed up the first beat.  All eyes were on who was going to be first round the windward mark, and although it should not have been a surprise, it was the blue spinnaker of Graham Bailey, racing for the first time this season, that was the first to fly on the run to the leeward gate; second was Bruce Huber, third was visitor Jack Grogan with Mark Downer in his very smart new Illusion in fourth.  On the second & third rounds Graham extended his lead leaving the chasing group to fight it out amongst themselves.  Although Bruce & Jack maintained their earlier positions, Mark dropped off the pace a bit and had Andy Blundell & his son George finish ahead of him.  Last year’s runner up, Julia Bailey’s luck deserted her and she ended up retiring after only two rounds when her new see through jib kept getting caught on the spreaders every time she tacked.  Sadly she was unable to resolve the problem so headed back to the Illusion Quay and missed the two remaining races.18Mar17 - jg_bhr1


The second race was again started under the Black Flag rule and other than David Peerless who unfortunately got caught in the penalty area when the one minute whistle sounded and was therefore disqualified, and despite a couple of 25 knot gusts, the fleet got away first time.  Graham & Bruce were again the first two round the windward mark with Jack & Mark not far behind.  Coming up through the line to start the second round Mark was lifted into second place and although they tried their hardest, Bruce had to be content with third, Jack with fourth ands Andy with fifth.  The next group of Alastair Speare-Cole, George Downer & Steve Warren-Smith all finished with a second or so of each other; as lower down the fleet did Serena Gosling, Robin Ebsworth & Guy Mattinson.


With the wind dropping to a nicer 15 knots, it was good to see Maddie Fenner come back out and join in the final race of the day.  Again started under the Black Flag, the fleet got away cleanly with no disqualifications.  At the windward mark it was Bruce & Graham who again were first round with Mark hot their heels.  For the rest of the race there was little to choose between the first two and in the end it was the choice of leeward gate mark that decided it.  Bruce went left and Graham went right and found himself able to make the line in one to cross about a boat length ahead.  Mark was third & Jack was fourth.  Alastair & Andy in fifth & sixth had a very close race, as did Nigel Grogan & George and slightly lower down Guy, Jonathan Nainby-Luxmoore and Steve.19Mar17 - md


After a delicious and well supported dinner on Saturday evening, there was a draw for a new set of Hyde Illusion sails very kindly donated by Nigel & Jack Grogan.  Lucky winner Andy Christie choose the spinnaker, Philip Bown the genoa which left a delighted Bill Daniel’s with the main.


The wind on Sunday was pretty much as forecast – Westerly F6-7 – and with an incoming tide, conditions in the harbour looked distinctly unpleasant.  After a recce outside the harbour had revealed gusty but considerably less choppy conditions off the St Helens Old Church shore, twenty one boats headed out and once the course had been set were soon locked in battle.  The first race of the day got away to a clean start and the fleet split up the beat to the windward mark; first round was Mark and slightly surprisingly second was David Peerless hotly pursued by Bruce, Guy, Jack & Nigel, Jonathan and Graham.  Not many risked spinnakers on the gusty run to the leeward gate, but everyone made it safely.  During the second and third rounds, Mark & Bruce pulled out a substantial lead and a number of boats had gear failure and rightly decided to head back into the harbour.  Sadly this included the overnight leader Graham who found himself taking in a lot of water in his bow tank following a relatively minor incident with Jack.  Despite best efforts to overhaul Mark, Bruce had to be content with a second; George was third ahead of Jack.19Mar17 - r3(1)


With occasional gusts of well over 20 knots, it was decided to limit the fifth race to just two rounds; after a clean start the lead was again taken up by Mark with Bruce initially close behind, however as the race progressed, Jack & Julia closed the gap and by the finish had overtaken him.  Lower down the fleet John Raymond had a close battle with Philip Russell and Nigel Grogan.19Mar17 - r3


With the sun making an appearance, the breeze occasionally dropping to 12 or so knots, and only a couple of points separating the leading two, the final race had everything going for it.  In the event it did not disappoint.  Bruce was first to the windward mark with Jack a close second; Mark meanwhile was well down the fleet however his vast experience saw him move up into second place by the start of the final round which was enough to secure the overall Championship by a single point ahead of Bruce.  Mind you the final placings were rather dependent on whether Graham was going to seek redress over the damage he suffered in the first race of the day.  In the event he decided, very gentlemanly, to leave things as they were. 18Mar17 - runr1


Congratulations therefore t o Mark who retained the Trophy for another year; also to Bruce who was second and Jack who was third.19May17 - pg


Next weekend’s racing is for the Spring Plate.



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