Despite early starts and although away from shelter it was still quite chilly on Saturday in Bembridge for the Spring Plate, the sunshine and F4 gusting occasionally F5 NNE breeze made for some great racing for twelve hardy Illusionists. The start of the first race nearly went to a General Recall, however in the end only two boats (both of whom came back) were called OCS. Although the majority remained on starboard tack until they reached the channel, a few boats tacked early onto port in the hopes of a more favourable side of the course. Julia Bailey was first round the windward mark; next was Bruce Huber with Mark Downer & James Axtell tucked in close behind. Although Julia looked as if she had done enough to secure first place, it was not to be and Bruce just got through on the final part of the third round run to the leeward gate and back to the finish line. Mark meanwhile stole a march on James to come in an easy third; George Downer was fourth.
The second race got away cleanly and this time everyone remained on starboard tack as they headed towards the St Helens side of the harbour. At the windward mark there was very little separating Mark, Bruce & Julia which made for some interesting tactics on the spinnaker run back down the harbour to the leeward gate. Indeed, except for James who had a problem with his genoa at the gate, there was not much space between the following group lead by David Peerless either. As the race unfolded, there was little between the top three, however with Bruce & Mark match racing and giving no quarter, Julia was left to her own devices and came in first. David Peerless was fourth.
The final race of the day got away to another clean start; Bruce was first round the windward mark and established a good lead. Mark after an uncharacteristic poor start, made up a lot of ground and by the end of the second round was in second place ahead of Robin Ebsworth, Steve Warren-Smith, David Peerless and Jo & George Downer. Julia meanwhile was somewhat oddly almost last and clearly struggling to make up places; it was not until her Illusion was recovered back onto its trailer in the Dinghy Park that she spotted the probable reason – a large lump of weed trapped around her rudder! With the finish after three and a half rounds at the windward mark, first across the line was Bruce; second Mark and third David Peerless; George was fourth and Robin just fifth.
Sunday was another lovely day with a little less breeze coming from the East providing some excellent racing. Although there were a few no shows due to other commitments (not because they had forgotten to change their clocks overnight!), Bill Daniels, Hugh Doherty & David Russell-Jones kept numbers in double figures. Due to the shortage of water in the middle of the harbour and Bruce Huber taking an unplanned swim off the Illusion Quay as boats were being launched, the first race started about twenty minutes late. After a clean start, with Bill just managing to keep out of trouble as he came in close to the pin on port, most of the fleet remained on starboard all the way to the St Helens side of the harbour. Mark Downer was first round the windward mark with Bruce, James Axtell and Julia Bailey trailing in his wake. Mark extended his lead a bit on the second round, however Bruce decided to take a slightly different route on the third run and reached the leeward gate just ahead and finished a couple of boat lengths in front. James was third and Bill fourth. Mid-fleet David R-J and Robin Ebsworth traded tacks with David crossing the line inches ahead.
Another clean start for the fifth race and it was Mark who was first to round the windward mark again and as they came to finish the first round it was good to see David just ahead of Bruce & James, however he was unable to keep it going and dropped down the fleet as the race progressed. On the final run disaster overtook Bruce, who by then was in second place, when his mast fell down as a result of the bottom of his genoa detaching itself from the furler. This left Bill in second place with Julia third.
The final race started with James & Richard being called OCS; the former came back quite quickly, the latter too a bit longer so was always on the catch up. With the breeze varying at least 20º and veering to the SE, the course was tweaked a bit as the race progressed; with the windward mark ending up just off the Redwing Quay it meant that finding the lay line was a bit of a lottery, however with Mark & Bruce to show the way, the rest of the fleet just enjoyed a lovely sail. Bill was third & Julia fourth.
Congratulations to Bruce who despite his unexpected swim before racing started on Sunday and his mast falling down won the Spring Trophy, 2 points ahead of Mark. Julia was third and James fourth.
Early afternoon starts next weekend (1st & 2nd April) for the Flying Dutchman Trophy.
Start of Race 1 on Saturday:
Leeward Gate Race 2 on Saturday:
Leeward Gate final round Race 2 on Saturday:
Leeward Gate mid-fleet Race 2 on Saturday:
Leeward Gate Race 3 on Saturday:
Start of Race 4 on Sunday: